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  1. The Massacre in Zangabad, Panjwai: Afghan Testimony, As Reported — Wednesday, June 5, 2013
  2. The consequential truth about Senate rules and practice that neither political Party will publicly explain and our Free Press ignores — Wednesday, January 23, 2013
  3.   — Saturday, July 7, 2012
  4. Did DOD+NYT+Reuters+AP Fabricate Panjwai Victims, Or Were 21 Killed? — Saturday, July 7, 2012
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The Massacre in Zangabad, Panjwai: Afghan Testimony, As Reported


For details of the U.S. Army’s investigation of this mass murder, and the commanding general’s AR 15-6 review, see the Timelines linked in the December 31, 2015 note atop Public Panjwai Massacre Facts

More than a year ago, a horrifying war-crime massacre was committed by at least one American soldier stationed in the Zangabad area of Panjwai district, Kandahar province, Afghanistan. Seven months ago (or eight months later), the U.S. Army held a pre-trial “Article 32” hearing, in accordance with the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), at a military base in Washington state, to assess the evidence against SSG Robert Bales, who was taken into custody on March 11, 2012 and charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder on March 23, 2012. That November, 2012 hearing took sworn testimony from other American soldiers, and from Afghan survivors. The media was allowed to cover the hearing – but not to film it, or record the audio – in an overflow room of the small military courtroom. There, over seven straight days, they saw Americans testify in person, and then, late at night, Pacific time, watched 11 Afghan survivors, 2 Afghan National Army guards, and 1 Afghan Uniform National Police investigator testify by video link from an Army base in Kandahar city.

The official transcript of that pivotal Army Article 32 hearing, however, remains secret – concealed from the public and the press. Thus, the only sworn testimony of Afghan survivors and witnesses, describing what happened that night, exists in the snippets of testimony that the handful of reporters present managed to capture and preserve for the public record, during the three late nights of Afghan testimony heard at the conclusion of seven days of attack testimony. Also concealed from the public is the subsequent report by the investigating officer, based upon the evidence produced at the hearing (including four days of testimony by American soldiers), that formally recommended to the Army that SSG Bales be referred for a court-martial trial (advice that the Army commander implemented in late December, 2012).

The U.S. Army has similarly concealed the names of all of the children listed on their two Charge Sheets for SSG Bales – March 23, 2012 Charge Sheet; June 1, 2012 Charge Sheet – and thus the identities of the victims behind the numbers remained a secret until January 17, 2013, when Gene Johnson of the Associated Press obtained the full list of Charge Sheet victim names from defense attorneys for the accused. (The names of the adult victims on the current Army Charge Sheet were only pried out of the Army by the media in November, 2012.) The AP’s January list confirmed that the only existing, semi-official (Afghan-sourced) public list of massacre victims’ names was not the same as the June 1, 2012 Army Charge Sheet. The AP’s list of victims also publicly confirmed for the first time that there are notnine children” listed among the dead on the current Army Charge Sheet, as has been – and continues to be – unquestioningly accepted, and repeated as fact by members of the media, since President Karzai and U.S. military spokesmen first made unsupported statements to that effect soon after the massacre. Yet such unexplained discrepancies, like all the many other disturbing discrepancies in the U.S. government’s version of this story (for particulars, see my repeatedly-updated July, 2012 post and its maps, in addition to the reporting below), remain unmentioned and uninvestigated by our Free Press (whose reporting is largely responsible for the obvious existence of those discrepancies), and by our representatives in the House and Senate. (While Panjwai Massacre victims still living in the war zone that is Zangabad, like Haji Mohammad Naim – who’s had one son killed since the massacre by a NATO airstrike, and another arrested – now plead for help and justice from “human rights organizations” – see subtitled June 5 video below.)

Congress, to the best of my knowledge, has convened not a single public hearing to examine what happened that night, during the commission of the worst American war crime in decades. Significant monetary compensation from U.S. taxpayers, however, was hurriedly issued by the Department of Defense (or the CIA) to the subsistence farmers affected, the day after Bales was charged – before Army investigators had even made it to the scenes of the crime to investigate.

And today, June 5, 2013, his lawyers announced a week ago, SSG Bales will be pleading guilty, effectively as charged (thus, to 16 counts of premeditated murder and six counts of attempted murder), in order to avoid the death penalty – and, evidently, so that the Army can avoid having its evidence tested at trial.

First video-recorded interview of wounded Panjwai Massacre survivor Haji Mohammad Naim of Alkozai, with his nephew Abdul Baqi and victims Samiullah and Haji Baran, filmed in Zangabad June 5, 2013 by Afghan reporter Mamoon Durrani

Bales guilty plea: Victims’ reactions, from 2470media on Vimeo. Click on image to play June 5, 2013 video.

June 23rd UPDATE: As blogged by Hal Bernton of the Seattle Times June 5, “During the hearing [Wednes]day, [SSG] Bales did not offer an apology to his victims,” but he did plead guilty, as expected, to all but one of the counts charged to him on June 1, 2012. The one count to which Bales did not plead guilty was an alleged violation of Article 134 of the UCMJ – Charge IV, Specification 1 – which stated that Bales did “wrongfully endeavor to impede an investigation . . . by damaging a laptop computer.” Here’s how Gene Johnson of the Associated Press reported the sworn testimony of U.S. Army Sgt. Ross O’Rourke, in that regard, during November’s Article 32 hearing:

But Bales also deliberately mangled his laptop, said two soldiers assigned to guard him as he gathered his things.

One of them, Sgt. Ross O’Rourke, testified that he removed the laptop from Bales’ rucksack after the defendant told him he didn’t want to take it with him. O’Rourke said Bales then grabbed the computer and folded the screen back, breaking it.

That didn’t damage the hard drive, O’Rourke said, and investigators still could have retrieved information from the computer. O’Rourke didn’t testify about what information might have been uncovered.

On Monday, Cpl. David Godwin testified that Bales asked him to bleach his blood-soaked clothes.

And here’s how Adam Ashton of The News Tribune blog described the pertinent Article 32 testimony of U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class James Stillwell:

Two soldiers who guarded him that day said they gave Bales the benefit of the doubt when he told them he wanted to retrieve his laptop while he awaited a helicopter flight out of Belambay. Bales told them he wanted to make sure it wouldn’t get destroyed, [SFC James] Stillwell remembered.

Stillwell lifted it out of a rucksack containing Bales’ clothes and left it for the captive staff sergeant. Bales promptly snapped it, Stillwell testified today.

At the conclusion of the June 5 plea hearing, a press conference was held by defense attorneys, including the military defense counsel for SSG Bales. Hal Bernton attended the news conference, and reported as follows on his Seattle Times blog:

[Defense co-counsel Army Maj. Greg] Malson said that “what [Bales] wants more than anything” is for Afghans to understand that other soldiers now on the ground in Afghanistan had nothing to do with what happened in those two villages.


I linked above (as an example of “nine children” reporting) to a June 2nd Guardian article by Emma Graham-Harrison and Afghan reporter Mokhtar Amiri, on the Bales plea deal and reactions to it. Notably, this pair of reporters is responsible for one of the Panjwai Massacre’s multiple, never-explained March, 2012 ‘ghost’ victim/witness articles. Meaning reporting about a victim – in this case, the wounded “father” of 26-year-old “Muhammad Zahir” from “just south” of COP Belamby, about whom the Associated Press also reportedwho we now know was not charged to SSG Bales.

Remarkably, this same Guardian pair may have just repeated that feat in their June 2, 2013 article – again without explanation, or apparently any recognition of, or appreciation for, the import of and public interest in what they, or at least Mokhtar Amiri, have reported. Specifically, Afghan journalist Amiri (I assume) reportedly had a conversation, within the last month, with an “eyewitness” to the Panjwai Massacre named “Haji Satar Khan” – no village or location mentioned by the Guardian – whose existence is news to me, and whose “eyewitness” account of the massacre has never been publicly heard in English-language reporting, as far as I know. Furthermore, Amiri (or Graham-Harrison) spoke within the last month to “Abdul Halim Noorzai, a former mujahideen commander from Panjwai district,” who told the Guardian that “[t]wo of his family members were injured in the attack” – again, however, no names, no ages, no village, no location for those victims is mentioned. Noorzai may well be a (close or distant) relative of two of the six Panjwai wounded charged to Bales (all of whom are from one Alkozai neighborhood). For example, Noorzai could be, and I believe would have to be, a relative of the unnamed and uninterviewed wife of wounded Haji Mohammad Naim of Alkozai, and thus of her two wounded children (Parmina and Sadiqullah) – but there’s no way to tell if that’s the case from the Guardian’s reporting. And unless “Haji Satar Khan” is not in fact an “eyewitness,” his unheard account of what he saw that night ought to be considered worthy of recounting by any journalist, given the paucity of massacre accounts by adult eyewitnesses available in English.

Meanwhile, to tout the “local uprising” in the Zangabad region – AFP; embedded NYT; AAN; embedded CBS; embedded LATimes; embedded NPR – in late May this year U.S. Army special forces hosted an embedded CBS News reporter inside Camp Belamby itself – the first visit, to my knowledge, of any U.S. reporter to Camp Belamby (or massacre homes), period, since before the massacre. During her Army-arranged tour, London-based reporter Elizabeth Palmer visited and filmed (screen captures: 1, 2, 3, 4) what may well be Haji Mohammad Naim’s former Alkozai home – now being used as an Afghan Local Police (ALP) post (Palmer doesn’t mention it, but Haji Naim told Mamoon Durrani June 5 that he’s relocated his family to another village, and has himself refused to join the ALP). There, Palmer spoke off-camera to, and filmed on-camera, an unnamed massacre survivor – apparently a witness to his unnamed Alkozai father (perhaps Naim, or one of the two adult male neighbors of Naim who were killed) being “mowed down” – who has joined the ALP. Palmer too assures us, in her one-sided, Army-directed CBS Evening News report, four full months after the Associated Press demonstrated otherwise, that the deaths of “nine children” were charged to SSG Bales.

In lieu of compiling a list of the many unanswered questions that SSG Bales should be, but probably will not be [and, as it turned out, in fact was not], required to answer as part of his plea deal, the rest of this post is my (reporting-derived) version of a public transcript of November’s Article 32 hearing testimony by Afghan survivors – now unable to travel to the U.S. to testify in person at a future court-martial for SSG Bales – as they answered questions about what was done to them in our name. [Unanswered questions like why SSG Robert Bales – while under guard waiting to be airlifted out of COP Belamby – said to a fellow soldier, with regard to the number of people he thought had been killed: “My count is 22” (according to U.S. Army SGT Jason McLaughlin’s sworn testimony). Another reporter in attendance heard (and tweeted) either the prosecutor’s opening argument or actual testimony stating that Bales told a fellow soldier (presumably McLaughlin): “he thought he killed 20 people.” (Including the ‘ghost’ victims in media reports – see the excerpts immediately following the casualty box in the July postI count descriptions of 29 separate deaths in the Panjwai Massacre.)] As with the high-profile Bradley Manning court-martial now underway in Maryland, this effort to create a partial substitute for the official transcript is made necessary because the military is being allowed to close the doors of the UCMJ-governed military justice system, in all but name, by withholding essential court documents from the press and public.


On January 19, 2014, at Storify.com – as introduced here (this link’s also at the top of the sidebar) – I posted a “partial substitute” for the August, 2013 Bales sentencing hearing transcript, as well. That hearing relayed, for the first time, 32 pages of uncontested facts about the massacre, including, as recorded by reporters who were present, the following undisputed stipulated facts:

He called Afghans “muzzis,” said soldiers could cover up anything they did in Afghanistan

Jury hears #Bales told fellow soldiers under his command not to worry about actions in Afghanistan b/c they could “always cover up” actions

A fellow soldier had a limb blown off. [] #Bales wasn’t there and wasn’t a friend.

After the attack, Sgt Bales told colleagues: “[] My count is 20,” referring to the number of Afghans he believed he had killed.

After returning to Afghan base from his killings, Sgt #Bales said, “My count is 20.” And “we shouldn’t worry about collateral consequences.”

#Bales to soldiers: [] “My count was 20,” referring to number of people killed.

[] #Bales told soldiers “My count was 20” referring to victims he killed #jblm

#Bales “[] My count is 20. That MFer with the PKM won’t bother us anymore.”

#Bales asked a fellow soldier to help him destroy evidence after massacre while being held. He didn’t. Bales did destroy a computer #jblm

[] #Bales destroyed his laptop to get rid of evidence

#Bales stomped on his laptop. [] Bales knew it had porn & video of casualties. []

Then, in unsworn answers to his attorney later in the hearing, SSG Bales finally apologized – apparently mostly to his “Patriot Brotherhood” (as tweeted by reporters who were present):

More #Bales: “I love the army. I’ve stood next to some really good guys, some real heroes. I can’t say I’m sorry to those guys enough.”

#Bales choked up esp when apologizing to soldiers: I love the Army …I can’t say I’m sorry to those guys enough. #Afghanistan


I believe the long collection of excerpted testimony reports below – supplemented by the few English-language media interviews of survivors that exist – speaks for itself. I’ll only add this sampling of Article 32 testimony by American soldiers at Camp Belamby (testimony that’s not otherwise included in this post, but may be in future, depending on what develops today). This relates to the alleged movements of SSG Bales that night, according to American and Afghan witnesses, in connection with the murders both north of the base, and at the Wazir and Dawood homes south of Camp Belamby:

[Bales defense attorney Emma] Scanlan said the timeline laid out by prosecutors also raises questions, beginning with the Afghan guard who testified that he checked his watch, and was certain that the U.S. soldier he saw — returning from the initial killings in Alkozai, prosecutors allege — had returned to Camp Belambay at 1:30 a.m.

The shots heard from the direction of Alkozai didn’t stop till 1:50 a.m., the defense attorney said [apparently quoting Article 32 testimony that didn’t otherwise make it into the media with such specificity -pow wow].

“I don’t know what that means,” Scanlan said. “But one thing it means is, if you believe what the government is telling you, that Sgt. Bales is the one who came back through that wire at 1:30, then somebody else was firing for another 20 minutes.” – Kim Murphy, The Los Angeles Times, Nov. 14, 2012

Emma Scanlan was similarly quoted by Hal Bernton of the Seattle Times on November 13, 2012 (in a hearing/closings summary article that, in introducing this statement, seems to confuse or merge testimony by U.S. soldiers with testimony by an Afghan soldier):

“We need to know why there are shots fired after they say Sgt. Bales returned to the base.”
– Bales defense attorney Emma Scanlan, Nov. 13, 2012

More on the timing from a Najiban woman interviewed on March 11, 2012 about the Wazir home murders, but never again since (a neighbor, and possibly a relative, whose name may be either “Gul Bashra” or “Anar Gul”) – she was already awake when the attack began:

It was 2:00 in the morning [she holds up two fingers, apparently to represent the time -pw]. I woke up for my fasting breakfast. When I turned the light on, I heard noises. I told my son [looks at and gestures toward him on the other side of the minivan -pw] not to speak because the Americans are here. They were telling us to be quiet, and not to come out. When he kicked the door, my door had a stone so it didn’t open. They moved from my door, and went next door and the first thing they did was to shoot the dog, and then there was a muffled bang inside the room – but who could go and see. And then there were two planes overhead.” – The BBC, March 11, 2012

I’ve now (as of June 13th) compiled some of the American and Afghan soldier Article 32 hearing testimony, as reported, into a timeline, along with media accounts from Afghan villagers (the sworn Article 32 testimony entries are bolded, the unsworn media accounts are not):


12:00 AM, Midnight, March 11: SSG Bales was inside Camp Belamby, and, apparently after a shift on guard duty, was visiting and talking about an earlier IED attack (among other things) with SFC Clayton Blackshear, who was trying to sleep, Blackshear testifed under oath. (Testimony reports: 1, 2, 3)

No reported sightings of an original, pre-1:30 AM departure by any soldier from Camp Belamby on March 11.

  • No known Article 32 testimony about a pre-1:30 AM departure by SSG Bales
  • No known media reports from any witnesses of a pre-1:30 AM departure from Camp Belamby of SSG Bales
  • No known Article 32 testimony from victims about the time of the Alkozai attack
  • Ibrahim Khan Houses, Alkozai attack timing said – by injured Samiullah son Rafiullah, in an October, 2012 media interview with Der Spiegel – to be after “one side of sleep”
  • Non-witness Samiullah, whose mother was killed and two children wounded in the Ibrahim Khan Houses neighborhood of Alkozai, said in a recorded March 12, 2013 Al Jazeera interview (as translated): “He killed them at 3:00 o’clock in the morning.”
  • U.S. Army brigade surgeon MAJ Travis Hawks testified at the Article 32 hearing that five Alkozai wounded [Haji Mohammad Naim, his daughter Parmina and son Sadiqullah, and his neighbor’s grandchildren Rafiullah and Zardana, all from Ibrahim Khan Houses] arrived at FOB Zangabad (the a battalion headquarters, location unconfirmed; reportedly either “about 20-30 kilometers” from Camp Belamby, or “just over a mile” from Camp Belamby per “military in the area”) at 3:30 AM (Testimony reports: 1, 2, 3, 4)

From about 1:15 AM until about 1:50 AM: Gunfire heard in the direction of Alkozai, per sworn testimony by American soldiers PFC Derek Guinn and PFC Damian Blodgett, who reported it while on guard duty together (on the roof of the Camp Belamby operations center) that night. They used thermal imaging and then shot up a 20-second flare to unsuccessfully try to locate its source. (Testimony reports: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7)

  • Gene Johnson of the Associated Press, November 6:
      Two other soldiers, Pfcs. Derek Guinn and Damian Blodgett, testified Tuesday that they were on a guard shift early March 11 when they heard scattered gunfire coming from Alkozai, the first village attacked. […]

      Blodgett said he reported it to the operations center on base, and a specialist told them to monitor it and let him know if it came toward them.

      The shooting lasted for 30 to 40 minutes, Blodgett said.

  • A CBS News media interview reported on November 8, 2012 (just before the Afghan testimony began) that “[Rafiullah] told us the shooting lasted half an hour.”

1:30 AM: Hurried entry by an American soldier into Camp Belamby from the north, in the midst of ongoing gunfire at Alkozai, per sworn testimony by Afghanistan National Army (ANA) soldier Pvt. Naimatullah (who checked his watch and is certain of the time the soldier arrived during his Midnight-2:00 AM guard shift, but apparently did not hear the Alkozai gunfire), and by American soldiers PFC Derek Guinn and PFC Damian Blodgett (who heard the gunfire, but did not see the soldier entering); all three were on camp guard duty (at two different locations) at that time. (Testimony reports: 1, 2, 3)

  • Timing matches Naimatullah’s late March, 2012 media interview with Yalda Hakim of Australian public television
  • Timing also matches a March 23, 2012 account given to Robert Burns of the Associated Press by “members of the Afghan delegation investigating the killings”
  • ANA soldier Naimatullah testifed that the soldier, who was wearing body armor, “seemed nervous,” and when Naimatullah several times asked him to stop, he just said “How are you?” in Pashto and then something in English and pushed on into the base (Testimony reports: 1, 2, 3)
  • Bill Rigby of Reuters, November 6:
      Testifying at a pre-trial hearing to determine whether Bales can be sent to a court martial, Private First Class Derek Guinn said he was told by Afghan guards that two U.S. soldiers were seen entering the compound in the early hours of March 11, and one was seen leaving again.

      But Guinn, who spoke to the guards through an interpreter, said he personally did not see anyone leaving or entering Camp Belambay.

  • Adam Ashton of McClatchy/The News Tribune, November 12:
      Last week, a U.S. soldier testified that he and three other junior soldiers at Bales’ outpost approached an Army criminal investigator with a theory that a second sergeant was involved in the killings. They based their speculation on reports from an Afghan guard that two Americans walked into Belambay late on the night of the killings, and one American left the base about 3 [2:30, per testimony? -pw] a.m.
  • Kim Murphy of the Los Angeles Times, November 6:
      Sitting under guard in the camp’s medical unit, Bales mentioned an earlier incident in Najiban, one of the two villages where the shootings occurred, in which U.S. troops were pinned down for up to half an hour by an insurgent’s PKM machine gun.

      Though aerial surveillance pinpointed the location of the gunner, a decision was made not to drop a bomb on the site because of possible injury to civilians. “He said basically, ‘Your team leader was weak,'” Sgt. 1st Class Derek King said Bales told him.

      “He said, ‘Remember that [expletive] PKM? That’s not going to happen again,'” Bales said, according to Sgt. Ross O’Rourke, who was sitting with King.

  • Adam Ashton of The News Tribune blog, November 6:
      For the second straight day, soldiers who served with Bales at Belambay expressed their disbelief that someone would independently leave a NATO combat outpost to kill Afghan villagers.

      “Utter amazement,” said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Lance Allard, another 7th Special Forces Group Green Beret who was the No. 2 commander at Belambay.


      Allard explained that soldiers normally dress themselves in body armor and coordinate their plans to protect themselves. Witnesses said Bales did not wear his Kevlar vest when they saw him return to Belambay [from the south (when taken into custody) -pw]. Instead, he had a sheet tied around his neck like a cape.

      [Sgt. 1st Class Derek] King [of the 7th Special Forces Group] also overheard Bales connect his alleged massacre to a previous ambush soldiers encountered near Belambay. At the time, Bales of Lewis-McChord’s 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division was frustrated that the American Special Forces commander leading the patrol did not have the attacker killed when a surveillance camera spotted the enemy’s position.

  • Laura Myers of Reuters, November 7:
      Several witnesses on the first two days of the hearing testified that Bales had been upset by the lack of action over an attack on a patrol several days [March 8th? -pw] before the shootings in which one soldier had the lower part of a leg blown off by [an IED] bomb.
  • Adam Ashton of The News Tribune blog, November 5:
      Three of the witnesses have suggested that Bales was upset about a March 5 [or March 8? -pw] attack that severely wounded a Navy explosive ordnance technician. Bales wanted to hit the enemy hard, Sgt. 1st Class Clayton Blackshear said, and was disappointed that the soldiers had waited to gather resources and intelligence.
  • Kim Murphy of the Los Angeles Times, November 6:
      [Bales] was particularly irate that no action had been taken in response to two homemade explosives planted in a nearby village [Mokhoyan, March 8th? -pw] five days before the shootings, one of which blew off the leg of a U.S. soldier.

      Under cross-examination by defense attorney Emma Scanlan, Master Sgt. Clifford Uhrich said he understood that 20 local men had been rounded up near a mosque and questioned about what they knew. [Rare, belated confirmation of a key portion of this important March 21, 2012 Associated Press report by Mirwais Khan. -pow wow]

      But nothing further had been done, unit members said, because the camp was short-staffed, and investigators hadn’t completed their work.

      [Sgt. 1st Class Clayton] Blackshear testified about another eerie middle-of-the-night visit he received as he was almost asleep, shortly before Bales is believed to have left the compound. “A figure came in and sat down on the chair. I recognized the figure … it was Sgt. Bales,” he said. Bales started talking about the IED attack.

      “He expressed quite a bit of concern about, I guess, the [camp’s] actions after the incidents that we hadn’t done enough, or wanted to do more to try to find the people that were responsible,” Blackshear said.

2:00 AM: Shooting started in the Najiban neighborhood of the Mohammad Wazir home, per March 11 media interviews of neighbors Gul Bashra/Anar Gul and Agha Lala.

  • Apparent Mohammad Wazir neighbor and Najiban ‘ear-witness’ Gul Bashra/Anar Gul told the BBC on video March 11 that: “It was 2:00 in the morning. I woke up for my fasting breakfast. When I turned the light on, I heard noises.”
  • Apparent Mohammad Wazir neighbor and Najiban eyewitness Agha Lala told Reuters March 11 that “he was awoken by gunfire at about 2 a.m.”

2:00 AM – 2:15 AM: SSG Bales was present inside Camp Belamby, per sworn testimony by American soldier SGT Jason McLaughlin, where and when Bales woke McLaughlin (whose alarm was set for 2:5030 AM ahead of a 3:00 AM guard shift), and told him: “I’ve just been to Alkozai and I shot up some people.” (Testimony reports: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)

  • Kim Murphy of the Los Angeles Times, November 6:
      “He said he’d just been to Alkozai, shot some people…. ‘I shot some military-age males.’ And I said, no you didn’t,” Sgt. Jason McLaughlin testified on the opening day of an Article 32 hearing for Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, who is charged with attacking two small farm villages during assaults that spanned five hours.

2:30 AM: Exit by a “laughing” American soldier from Camp Belamby, per sworn testimony by Afghanistan National Army soldier Pvt. Tosh Ali (who relieved Naimatullah at 2:00 AM, and was warned by Naimatullah to be “on the lookout”). Pvt. Tosh Ali heard gunfire half an hour later (at about 3:00 AM, halfway through his 2:00-4:00 AM guard shift). (Testimony reports: 1, 2, 3)

  • Timing matches unnamed second Afghan soldier’s late March, 2012 media interview with Yalda Hakim of Australian public television
  • This timing also matches a March 23, 2012 account given to Robert Burns of the Associated Press by “members of the Afghan delegation investigating the killings”
  • ANA soldier Tosh Ali testifed that when this soldier was asked to stop, he too said “How are you?” in Pashto, and kept going, wearing body armor and a helmet (Testimony reports: 1, 2)

About 2:30 AM: The attack at the Mohammad Wazir home (1+ KM southwest of Camp Belamby) began, per a March 23, 2012 media interview of Mohammad Wazir, quoting (never-interviewed?) eyewitness and Najiban neighbor “Palwasha.”

  • Wazir told BusinessWeek/Bloomberg: “Most of the neighbors heard the attack but they stayed hidden in their homes because they were afraid … Palwasha told me that the gunfire woke her about 2:30 in the night, and she came out and saw the light flashes from guns — not one gun, but different guns — at my house,” Wazir said. “It was too dark to see the soldiers’ uniforms, she told us.”

2:00 or 3:00 AM: The attack at the Mohammad Dawood home (0.50 KM northeast of the Wazir home) began, per non-witness Haji Baran’s March 16 public statement (on behalf of family witnesses) to President Karzai in Kabul.

  • Non-witness Haji Baran told President Karzai March 16, 2012 on video that “it was two or three in the morning” when the Mohammad Dawood home was attacked
  • No known media interviews, or Article 32 testimony, of witnesses Massouma (Dawood’s wife) and Hekmatullah (Dawood’s son) mention what time they think the attack occurred at their home; except that this October 28-29, 2012 DailyBeast/Newsweek statement was apparently drawn from the interview with Massouma that Afghan reporter Muhib Habibi conducted for the article: “The men entered around 3 a.m.”

Around 3:00 AM: The attacker(s) at the Mohammad Dawood home entered the room, per a March, 2012 media interview of apparent witness (and Dawood nephew) Toor Jan/Ali Ahmed.

  • Toor Jan/Ali Ahmed told CNN on video in March, 2012 that “it was around 3 at night that they entered the room” at the Mohammad Dawood home

About 3:15 AM: SSG Bales was not in his Camp Belamby room, per sworn testimony by American soldier SGT Jason McLaughlin [which apparently finally prompted base preparations to ‘rescue’ or find Bales, which included a roll call, going to the gate and calling his name, and shooting up more flares]. (Testimony report: 1, 2)

  • After hearing, right after coming on guard duty at 3:00 AM, from Afghan soldiers about what they’d seen, and from the preceding American guard shift about the gunfire near Alkozai, SGT McLaughlin “ran to see if Staff Sgt. Bales was in his room” at Camp Belamby and found that “Staff Sgt. Bales wasn’t there.” (Testimony report: 1)

3:30 AM: Five Alkozai wounded [Haji Naim, Parmina, Sadiqullah, Rafiullah, and Zardana, all from Ibrahim Khan Houses] arrived at FOB Zangabad – location unconfirmed; reportedly either “about 20-30 kilometers” from Camp Belamby, or “just over a mile” from Camp Belamby according to “military in the area” – per sworn testimony by American Army medic MAJ Travis Hawks, who treated them, and by Haji Mohammad Naim’s son Faizullah, who drove them there. Notably, before SSG Bales returned to the base (at about 4:45 AM), COP Belamby received “reports of civilian casualties” (presumably including from FOB Zangabad after these five wounded arrived). (Testimony reports: 1, 2, 3, 4)

4:36 AM: A balloon-mounted surveillance camera at FOB Zangabad spotted and recorded Bales headed toward Camp Belamby “from the direction of Najiban,” per Army video evidence shown at the Article 32 hearing – where American soldier SFC Clayton Blackshear testified that he saw Bales apprehended by fellow soldiers at about 4:45 AM. CPL David Godwin (who apprehended Bales with SGT Jason McLaughlin) testified that Bales was not wearing body armor, but had his helmet and night vision goggles, and was carrying a pistol and an M4 rifle with a grenade launcher. (Testimony reports: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)

  • Bill Rigby of Reuters reported the Article 32 opening statement by Army prosecutor Lieutenant Colonel Joseph “Jay” Morse, about the return of SSG Bales, this way:
      He is seen being confronted by three soldiers, including the two men prosecutors said he had been drinking with, who ordered him to drop his weapons and took him into custody as he is heard saying, “Are you fucking kidding me?”
  • Hal Bernton of the Seattle Times reported the same opening statement this way:
      A video surveillance camera from a helium balloon captured images of Bales, with a cape across his shoulder, approaching the base and being apprehended.

      [LTC Jay] Morse said Bales appeared surprised by his detention.

      His first reaction was, “Are you (expletive) kidding me,” Morse said. According to the prosecutor, Bales also asked a Special Forces soldier, “Did you rat me out?”

  • Adam Ashton of The News Tribune describing the opening statement video, and the subsequent witness testimony about the return of SSG Bales:
      [LTC] Morse capped his opening argument with a silent, 15-minute surveillance video that prosecutors say shows Bales returning from the second village. In it, a caped figure slinks along mud walls as he approaches the entrance to Bales’ outpost.

      The figure jogs to the gate, where he is met by armed U.S. soldiers. The man in the video drops an M4 rifle, a grenade launcher and a pistol. He puts his hands on his head and is escorted inside.

      McLaughlin and Godwin were the two soldiers who brought Bales into custody about 4:45 a.m. that day. They remembered him as bloodied from his face to his boots.


      Each thought Bales had a strange appearance – heavily armed, not wearing his Kevlar vest, but wearing a sheet like a cape. They figured he wore it like that because he’d heard Taliban insurgents were using tarps to conceal themselves from American surveillance cameras.

  • Also from Adam Ashton, at The News Tribune blog:
      “Are you (expletive) kidding me?” [Bales] shouted at two soldiers who raised their weapons at him while he jogged into Belambay, three witnesses have testified.
  • From Gene Johnson’s Associated Press testimony summary:
      When Bales returned, [Sgt. Jason] McLaughlin testifies, he was one of the soldiers to confront him and tell him to surrender his weapons: “The first words out of his mouth were, ‘Are you (expletive) kidding me?'”

Of the 11 Afghan family members who testified at the Article 32 hearing, the prosecution apparently called nine (all male), and the defense two (both young girls, one of whom was the only survivor called to testify about the deaths of Haji Nazar Mohammad and his two-year-old daughter Tora/Gulalai). The lone adult eyewitness present during the attack who was called to testify was Haji Mohammad Naim of Alkozai (Naim was shot three times at close range, and lost consciousness for four days). Apparently Leona Mansapit – the U.S. Army investigator who had interviewed Massouma, eyewitness widow of Mohammad Dawood – was a defense witness too; Mansapit was called to testify (on November 10-11) about what Massouma had privately told Mansapit in June, 2012. (See the foot of the post for Massouma’s accounts.) “The prosecution says that 17 Afghans have said they are willing to testify via video,” Ernesto Londono of The Washington Post wrote during the early portion of the Article 32 hearing, when Americans were testifying. Of the 14 Afghans (including two Army soldiers and a police investigator) who in fact testified by video link later that week, I’ve never seen English-language media interviews of Faizullah or Quadratullah from Alkozai, or of Khamal Adin about the Najiban scene he sorted through, or of Major Khudai Dad about the Afghan police investigation. Most of the other Afghans who testified have been interviewed very rarely by English-language reporters – only once or twice each, in general, as documented below. And, as noted at the beginning of my July, 2012 post, multiple (often key female) eyewitnesses have never been heard from at all (in the media or in the Article 32 hearing), including the eyewitness widow of Haji Nazar Mohammad of Alkozai.

This is the order in which the Afghans appear to have given their testimony in November (I followed a different order below):

Fri-Sat PT, Nov. 9-10, 2012

ANA soldier Naimatullah (12:00-2:00 AM Camp Belamby guard shift 3/11)
ANA soldier Tosh Ali (2:00-4:00 AM Camp Belamby guard shift 3/11, relieving Naimatullah)

Khamal Adin – (Najiban); Mohammad Wazir cousin
Faizullah – (Alkozai); Mohammad Naim son
Sadiqullah – Alkozai; Mohammad Naim son
Quadratullah – Alkozai; Mohammad Naim son
Mohammad Naim – Alkozai

Sat-Sun PT, Nov. 10-11, 2012

Samiullah – (Alkozai); Sayed Jan son
Zardana – Alkozai; Sayed Jan granddaughter
Rafiullah – Alkozai; Sayed Jan grandson
Robina – Alkozai; Nazar Mohammad daughter
Hekmatullah “Khan” Gul – South of Belamby; Mohammad Dawood son
Mullah Baraan – (South of Belamby); Mohammad Dawood brother

Sun-Mon PT, Nov. 11-12, 2012

Major Khudai Dad/Khudaydad,
Chief of Criminal Techniques,
Afghan Uniform Police

Map made possible by the invaluable on-the-ground Zangabad research of Afghan reporter Mamoon Durrani. Superimposed graphic design by Lela Ahmadzai of 2470Media

Rare map made possible by Afghan reporter Mamoon Durrani‘s invaluable on-site Zangabad research. Superimposed graphic design by Lela Ahmadzai of 2470Media. Click for larger version. *The identities of the victims listed on the still-redacted June 1, 2012 Army Charge Sheet are only known because of a January 17, 2013 Associated Press report that named them.


(Ibrahim Khan Houses & Mosque)

(About 0.60 kilometer north of Camp Belamby; 4 killed; 7 wounded) ________________________________________________________________

Before I begin quoting the Article 32 reporting about Rafiullah’s testimony (which is quite abbreviated and confusing), this is my summary – based on a careful transcription of the translation of a lengthy interview of Rafiullah conducted in Kabul in October, 2012 (the month before the sworn Article 32 testimony quoted below was given) – of much of what Rafiullah said he experienced that night, first in his own home, and then in the home of his neighbor to the east, Haji Mohammad Naim, during the attack at the Ibrahim Khan Houses neighborhood of Alkozai village (north of COP Belamby):

Rafiullah is the grandson of farmer or “gardener” Haji Sayed Jan and his wife Nikmarghah – who’d raised him since he was one month old. Rafiullah’s grandmother Khalida (aka Nikmarghah, the wife of Sayed Jan) was shot and killed on March 11 while trying to protect her grandchildren from an American soldier – first in her own home, and then in the home of her neighbor Haji Mohammad Naim, where she and her family had fled. Rafiullah first awoke that night when a bare-headed American soldier (wearing no helmet) kicked open the door of the room in which he, his younger sister and grandmother were sleeping, in the home of his grandfather Haji Sayed Jan, and his grandmother began to scream. Upon awaking, Rafiullah saw the soldier standing in the doorway and heard his grandmother’s screams. Rafiullah too began to scream. The soldier beckoned them outside, while saying something Rafiullah did not understand. His sister Zardana ran ahead, and his grandmother and Rafiullah soon followed, first to an unused or damaged area of their home where they kept animals, and then east to the nearby home of their neighbor Haji Mohammad Naim. Left behind in a guest room of the Sayed Jan home was farm laborer Khudaydad (a cousin of Rafiullah’s father Samiullah), who was killed sometime during the attack (possibly while running to help in response to their screams, based on an April, 2013 Associated Press interview of Zardana – her first media interview). The family cow followed them part way to Haji Mohammad Naim’s home next door, and at some point was shot but not killed. The three fled to the middle room of three in an area of the home of Haji Mohammad Naim (next to the room of Naim and his wife) where Naim’s son Sadiqullah and daughter Parmina were present, and Rafiullah lit the lantern and warned them that “an American guy is here.” At least two family members of Haji Nazar Mohammad (two young daughters, neither of whom testified, or have ever been interviewed) apparently also ran to that room from their home (on the east side of the Naim residence) during the 30-minute attack, before a soldier entered and started shooting. The seven in that room at Haji Naim’s when the shooting began, according to Rafiullah, were Zulheja and her sister “Rubbinah”/”Robina” (both young daughters of Haji Nazar Mohammad, from a home that shared the east wall – with a connecting door – of Haji Naim’s); Rafiullah, Zardana, and Nikmarghah (from a detached home on the west side of Haji Naim’s); and Haji Naim’s son Sadiqullah and daughter Parmina. The soldier shot Rafiullah in both legs with a pistol (a single bullet hit him in the left thigh – possibly after he’d jumped under a bed – ricocheted off the wall, and then hit him in the right thigh), causing Rafiullah to lose consciousness, and his 7-year-old sister Zardana was shot in the head and critically wounded. Rafiullah stated that, of the seven people present in that room when a soldier started shooting, Zulheja was the only one who was not injured – and yet her name (but not those of her sisters) appears on Al Jazeera’s unsourced March, 2012 list of Panjwai wounded. Rafiullah repeatedly stated during the October interview that on his way from Haji Sayed Jan’s home to Haji Mohammad Naim’s home with a soldier behind him (that is, while running between the high walls of the neighboring “compounds”), he “saw many lights in the garden” at different levels, and “heard footsteps,” indicating the presence of other soldiers. (The first media interview of Zardana, by the Associated Press in April, 2013, appears to corroborate this account by her brother.) Rafiullah’s parents (his father Samiullah and mother, whose name is unknown to me) were then (as Rafiullah is now) residing in Kandahar city with his older brother and younger sister Zardana – who was on a brief visit to the home of her grandparents in Alkozai on the night of the attack. Rafiullah’s grandfather Haji Sayed Jan was away from home that night because he was delivering firewood to heat Rafiullah’s father’s Kandahar city home. (See also 2470media’s important, English/German-subtitled October, 2012 video interview of Rafiullah.)

The reports of November, 2012 testimony given – under oath – by Afghan witnesses and survivors of the attack – as recorded by members of the media in attendance during the Bales Article 32 hearing (who struggled to hear the translated testimony, conveyed via late-night video link from Afghanistan to a military courtroom) – are collected and enclosed in gray boxes below. Normal background is used for other, non-Article 32 reporting. [Underlining/emphasis is mine.]

RAFIULLAH – grandson of Haji Sayed Jan & Nikmarghah, who raised him; son of Samiullah and wife

Rafiullah, Zardana’s brother, said the two of them were staying with their grandmother and younger sibling [the second younger sibling is new information to me -pow wow] when the gunman entered, a blazing light on his gun, and pointed his pistol at his sister.

His grandmother, Na’ikmarga, “tackled” the gunman as Zardana and Rafiullah bolted next door, he said. Na’ikmarga eventually caught up with the two youngsters, but the gunman followed and shot all three of them, killing Na’ikmarga and several other people who were at the adjoining compound [according to the Army Charge Sheet victim list, no one but Na’ikmarga was killed at the Haji Naim home -pow wow]. Rafiullah was hit in the leg. – Kim Murphy, The Los Angeles Times, Nov. 11, 2012

JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD – Holding back tears, 15-year-old Rafiullah described how his grandmother wrestled with a uniformed gunman who put a pistol in his sister’s mouth.

In the end, he added, the man shot all three of them, one by one.


Rafiullah, who spoke in Pashtun [Pashto -pw] and donned traditional garb, said he was sleeping next to his grandmother, Na’ikmarga, and his sister, Zardana, when there was a knock on the door.

After his grandmother got up to see what was going on, the man “came into the room and asked me to come outside and we started shouting … he was wearing a uniform,” Rafiullah said, sniffing as he recounted the night’s events.

Asked if the uniform worn by the man resembled those of US soldiers, he said “yes.”

“He had rifle and a pistol,” Rafiullah said of the man. “He put a pistol in my sister’s mouth and then my grandmother started to wrestle with him. At that time I ran out of the door … My sister and I were running. As soon as he left the room, my grandmother ran too.”

When asked what happened next, Rafiullah responded: “He shot my grandmother and then my sister, and then me. He shot me on my legs. Zardana was shot on her head.”
Agence France-Presse, Nov. 12, 2012

One of the villagers, a 15-year-old boy who was wounded in the rampage in Alkozai but survived by hiding, testified to the hearing at a U.S. Army base in Washington state that the shooter wore a U.S. military uniform.

“He put his pistol in my sister’s mouth and then my grandmother started wrestling with him,” the boy, introduced to the court by the single name of Rafiullah, said via video link from Kandahar Air Field. “He shot me in my legs.”
– Bill Rigby, Reuters, Nov. 11, 2012

Defense attorney John Henry Browne reminded Rafiullah that he has told another one of Bales’ defense attorneys that multiple soldiers were in the fields around his home. […]

The boy said he was scared that more Americans were in the fields around his village of Alkozai.

“I might have told (the defense attorney) that, but I don’t remember,” he said.
– Adam Ashton, The News Tribune blog, Nov. 10, 2012

A 15-year-old boy named Rafiullah, speaking through an interpreter, described being shot in the legs on the morning of March 11 in Kandahar Province. […]

Did he remember telling an interviewer from the defense team just last month that he had seen “many soldiers”? Sergeant Bales’s lead defense lawyer, John Henry Browne, asked.

“There might have been some soldiers,” the boy answered. “We were scared.”


“How many Americans did you see?” Maj. John Riesenberg, one of the prosecutors, asked during the Saturday night session.

“I just saw one,” the boy answered. But then he quickly added, “There might have been more — I just saw one.”– Kirk Johnson, The New York Times, Nov. 11, 2012

Rafiullah’s first interview in the English-language media, by Jon Stephenson of McClatchy, was published May 16, 2012 (with an important accompanying graphic; Stephenson’s graphic, however, is evidently inaccurate in certain key respects, based on both the lengthy Rafiullah interview summarized above, and the quoted Article 32 testimony – as is his article’s opening description of how Rafiullah awoke that night):

Posted on Wednesday, May 16, 2012

By Jon Stephenson | McClatchy Newspapers

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — It was early in the morning, perhaps 2 a.m., when gunfire awoke 14-year-old Rafiullah.

He looked outside the house he’d been sleeping in with his grandmother, an aunt, two cousins and his sister, and he saw a man with a weapon walk to a shed that housed the family cow and open fire, shooting the animal dead.

“I told the women inside our room: ‘Let’s run! Let’s get out of here,'” recalled Rafiullah, who like many Afghans goes by only one name. In the next compound, a short distance from the house where Rafiullah had been sleeping, Haji Mohammad Naim awoke to the sound of dogs barking wildly in the street.


How valuable Naim’s and Rafiullah’s testimony would be in a U.S. military court is unclear. Both said they didn’t see the shooter’s face clearly enough to identify him, and both are uncertain about the exact time, noting that no one in the houses had a watch. Officials haven’t divulged which village they think was attacked first.

[…] Before the shooting ended in Alkozai, Rafiullah’s grandmother [Nikmarghah -pw] was dead, his sister [Zardana -pw] was critically wounded, three other people had been killed and five others were wounded in three adjacent houses. Most of the victims were related by blood or marriage.


Terror unfolded in the crowded space [at the Haji Naim home -pw], the frightened faces of women and children illuminated only by a light that Rafiullah said appeared to be affixed to an assault rifle. The shooter drove everyone before him, herding and hunting his victims like animals.

Spotting Rafiullah, he seized one of the boy’s arms. Rafiullah said his grandmother seized his other arm, to try to stop the soldier from dragging him away. The soldier turned on her.

“He shot my grandmother, he wounded my sister Zardana and wounded me,” Rafiullah said. “He opened fire on Naim’s son, Sadiqullah, and also opened fire on Naim’s daughter. Then the soldier left.”

Help for the wounded eventually arrived, although Rafiullah – like Naim – had fallen unconscious, and was unable later to say how long it took to get there. The survivors were rushed, by a relative who’d borrowed a car, to a nearby U.S.-Afghan base [FOB Zangabad -pw], then flown by helicopter to a U.S. military hospital at Kandahar airfield.

Rafiullah, who had a gunshot wound to each leg, found himself in a bed next to Naim’s son, Sadiqullah, who’d received a bullet wound to his right earlobe.

Rafiullah told McClatchy that Afghanistan’s president, Hamid Karzai, phoned him in the aftermath of the attack and U.S. authorities later interviewed him while he was in the hospital. “Two times they talked to me,” he said.

A day or two after the massacre, he also spoke to the man Karzai had appointed as his chief investigator into the killings, Gen. Sher Mohammad Karimi, the Afghan army chief .

“To all of them I said the same thing,” Rafiullah said. “I saw only one shooter.”


Rafiullah has largely recovered from the physical wounds.

Rafiullah’s second English-language media interview was published on the eve of the Article 32 hearing in November by the Los Angeles Times, and, like the summary above, was also based on a lengthy early October interview of Rafiullah in Kabul:

November 04, 2012|By Kim Murphy and Ned Parker, Los Angeles Times

“I saw the man in the door and my grandmother crying and screaming,” said a teenager named Rafiullah, who, like many Afghans, uses only one name. Rafiullah said he, his sister and grandmother ran next door and joined several others at the home of Haji Naim.

“The room was a mess, everyone was screaming…. Haji Naim stood up and demanded what is going on. And the American shot him,” he said. “We were seven people in the room when we were shot. My grandmother, my sister, me, two of Haji Naim’s kids [Parmina and Sadiqullah -pw] and two of Haji Nizar’s kids [evidently Haji Nazar’s young daughters Rubbinah and Zulheja -pw].”

The youth swept his hand in front of him as if raking a room with gunfire. “He used a pistol,” he said. Four people, including Rafiullah’s grandmother, died in Alkozai. Six people, among them Rafiullah and his sister, were injured.


Both youths [Rafiullah, from north of COP Belamby, and Mohammad Dawood’s son Hekmatullah, from south of COP Belamby -pw] described seeing bright lights outside the houses during the attacks.


Only one family is left in the area of Alkozai where Rafiullah lived; he and his grandfather moved to another village [and/or to the Kandahar city home of Rafiullah’s father Samiullah -pw]. Najiban is a ghost town; residents fled, fearing the Americans and the Taliban. Wazir has moved 2 1/2 hours away to live with his brother in Spin Buldak. He and the others are still haunted by the killings.

Rafiullah said: “I see his face in my dreams, and sometimes I hear my sister waking up at the same time, screaming. I am praying every night, please God don’t make this happen again.”

Then there’s a brief CBS News television interview of Rafiullah, aired the night before Afghan testimony began at the Article 32 hearing, which includes footage of one of Rafiullah’s leg wounds:

November 8, 2012 7:34 PM

Afghans recall massacre horror ahead of soldier’s trial

By Kelly Cobiella

At night, a survivor of the massacre named Rafiullah told CBS News, the nightmares return.

“I see everything clearly,” he said in [Pashto -pw], “Over and over.”

The 15-year-old is one of the few [male… -pw] eyewitnesses to survive the massacre.

Rafiullah said he was at home asleep on March 11th when a man broke down the door.

“He pushed me against the wall, and put the pistol to my sister’s head,” he said. “We all started shouting: ‘Don’t kill her.'”

When the shooting started, Rafiullah ran to another room.

“We heard gunshots,” he said. “My uncle [presumably meaning his great-uncle Nazar Mohammad (brother of Rafiullah’s grandfather Sayed Jan) -pw], my little cousin [Nazar Mohammad’s two-year-old daughter Toraki/Gulalai/Khatima -pw] and my grandmother [Khalida/Nikmarghah -pw] were killed. I was told to put my hands on the wall, and then he shot my sister [pre-teen Zardana -pw] in the head.

Rafiullah was wounded in both thighs. He told us the shooting lasted half an hour. When we asked how many gunmen he had seen that night, Rafiullah answered “One.”

“He wore an American uniform,” he said. “He had a gun but no helmet. He shot us with a pistol.”

Rafiullah’s next English-language media interview was conducted five months after the Article 32 hearing, by Kathy Gannon of the Associated Press, and published May 16, 2013:

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (AP)

From another home that was attacked that night, 16-year-old Rafiullah remembers the American soldier smashing through the door waving his pistol. Awakened in a small room with his grandmother and his sister Zardana, he said he didn’t know what to do. “We just ran and he ran after us.”


Gesturing with his hand as if spraying the room with gunfire, Rafiullah said the soldier “just went bang, bang, bang.”

Rafiullah was wounded in both his legs, his grandmother was killed and Zardana was shot in the head.

ZARDANA – granddaughter of Haji Sayed Jan & Nikmarghah; daughter of Samiullah and wife

JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD, Wash. — Looking gravely across a courtroom in Afghanistan, 7-year-old Zardana raised her hand Saturday and swore to testify truthfully about the night a man who prosecutors say was a U.S. soldier shot her in the head, shot her brother in the leg and killed her grandmother.


“Yes I do, and I’m not going to lie,” said Zardana, wearing a lavender headscarf and fiddling with a juice box as her image was beamed by video to another courtroom in Washington state, where U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales is charged with 16 counts of murder.

Alternately grave and smiling while sitting at the long witness table next to an interpreter, Zardana was asked to testify only about the color of the T-shirt her attacker was wearing during the predawn attack March 11 in the village of Alkozai.

“He was wearing pants like this color,” Zardana said, pointing to the interpreter’s khaki shirt, “and also a T-shirt like you’re wearing,” nodding toward defense lawyer John Henry Browne’s black T-shirt.

Even that brief testimony was an accomplishment: Doctors at a remote U.S. Army post near Kandahar, seeing pieces of brain in her hair after the shootings, had given her up as hopeless. They turned to other, less injured patients. Then when they were finished, they discovered that the little girl was, against all odds, still breathing. – Kim Murphy, The Los Angeles Times, Nov. 11, 2012

Zardana, who was seven when she was allegedly shot by Bales and received treatment at a US military hospital, also testified.
Wearing a purple head scarf and sipping from a juice box, she confirmed that her shooter was wearing a khaki-colored T-shirt. Agence France-Presse, Nov. 12, 2012

Another 7-year-old testified she was wounded during the rampage, shot in the head by a man who she described as wearing tan pants and a black t-shirt.

Survivors who took the stand on Saturday [Haji Mohammad Naim and his son Quadratullah – pow wow] described the shooter as an American wearing camouflage pants and a tan t-shirt. – Chuck Conder, CNN, Nov. 11, 2012

Robina’s friend, Zardana, now 8, also testified, but only briefly to describe what the shooter was wearing.

Zardana suffered a gunshot wound to the top of her head, and when she arrived at a nearby military base, the doctors focused on treating the other injured victims first. They figured Zardana had no chance of surviving.

After two months at a military hospital in Afghanistan and three more at a Navy hospital in San Diego, she can walk and talk again.

Before she testified, Zardana sat at the witness table sipping from a pink juice box through a pink straw. A loose head covering and a barrette held her dark brown hair out of her face. – Gene Johnson, The Associated Press, Nov. 11, 2012

The other 7-year-old girl had more trouble walking. Zardana was shot in the head and nearly died on the night of the killings. The military sent her to a Navy hospital in San Diego for advanced care.

She and her father, Samiullah, spent three months there. They even went sight-seeing, Samiullah testified tonight.

Zardana wore a shiny purple dress and she wrapped her hair with a purple scarf. She smiled at a screen showing the Lewis-McChord courtroom at the NATO base in Kandahar in which she testified [the Kandahar base was Camp Nathan Smith, according to Adam’s account here -pow wow].

“I’m not going to lie,” she said when she was sworn in.

Both girls were wounded in the village of Alkozai, the first community Bales allegedly attacked on March 11.– Adam Ashton, The News Tribune blog, Nov. 10, 2012

On May 16, 2012, Jon Stephenson of McClatchy reported:

Zardana, Rafiullah’s sister, is the victim most in need of specialized care. Shot in the head, she remains partially paralyzed in the U.S. base hospital. Her uncle, Juma Khan, said U.S. officials had yet to follow through on a pledge to get her more sophisticated care in the United States.

“If the Americans can’t organize these simple things, they should return Zardana to us so the world can see her condition,” he said. “If America can’t help us, we will ask the international community for help.”

Zardana’s first, and so far only, English-language media interview was in April, 2013 with Kathy Gannon of the Associated Press, for a May 16, 2013 story (a year to the day after Stephenson’s valuable, singular report about Zardana’s condition):

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (AP)

Zardana, 11, said a cousin [Khudaydad, killed at the home of Haji Sayed Jan -pw] dashed over to help. He was shot and killed, she said. “We couldn’t stop. We just wanted somewhere to hide. I was holding on to my grandmother and we ran to our neighbors.” Their neighbor, Naim, came out of his house to see what the noise was all about and was shot and wounded. His daughter then ran to him but was killed [injured, if that daughter is Parmina -pw] by the American soldier, Zardana said, struggling to remember and fiddling with her green scarf decorated with tiny sequins.

Zardana, who said she saw soldiers in a nearby field as she ran from one house to the next, remembers trying to hide behind her grandmother at the neighbor’s house. But the soldier found them.


She removed her scarf to show where the wound had healed; the effects will last a lifetime. She suffered nerve damage on her left side and has to walk with a cane. Her hand is too weak to hold anything heavy.

Zardana spent about two months recovering at the Kandahar Air Base hospital and three more at a naval hospital in San Diego receiving rehabilitation therapy, accompanied by her father, Samiullah.


“They showed me so much love,” she said with a tiny smile. “They asked me about what happened and when I told them how my grandmother died and how afraid I was and how I was shot, they cried and cried.”

SAMIULLAH – of Kandahar city; son of Haji Sayed Jan & Nikmarghah; father of Rafiullah & Zardana

Samiullah, Rafiullah and Zardana’s father who was in Kandahar City at the time of the attack, recalled the horror of coming home to carnage.
Upon arrival, he saw the bodies of four Afghans on the ground – including those of a father and his daughter [Haji Nazar Mohammad and his two-year-old daughter Tora/Toraki, from the home east of Haji Naim’s -pow wow]. “She was laying by her father’s side,” he said of the girl. “She was shot on her head and her head was all bloody.” Agence France-Presse, Nov. 12, 2012

[Rafiullah’s] father, Samiullah, was away when the shootings occurred, and testified that by the time he returned the next morning, his two wounded children had been driven to a base for treatment. He found his mother among the four corpses at the compound.

“I just saw her, I cried, and I could not look on her face,” he said. – Gene Johnson, The Associated Press, Nov. 11, 2012

On Saturday, a man who was away from his village when the massacre took place returned home to find his mother’s body [Nikmarghah, grandmother of Rafiullah and Zardana, from the home west of Haji Naim’s].

“I just saw her, I cried and I could not look on her face,” said Samiullah.

Samiullah said his 7-year-old daughter Zardana was shot in the head in the attack and was later treated at a Navy hospital in San Diego. He said she can now walk and talk again.
– Gene Johnson, The Associated Press, Nov. 10-11, 2012

Zardana spent three months in a U.S. Navy hospital in San Diego over the summer. “The first time I saw her, I wasn’t sure she was going to live,” her father, Samiullah, testified Saturday. “The only thing she was doing was opening her eyes.”

But in the U.S., he said, she underwent successful medical treatment. “They tried their best and they helped a lot…. She’s better now.”– Kim Murphy, The Los Angeles Times, Nov. 11, 2012

In addition to a passing reference to a comment of his in April, 2013, during the first English-language media interview of his injured daughter Zardana (with whom Samiullah spent 2-3 months at a Navy hospital in San Diego in 2012), comments from Samiullah (a Kandahar city resident) have appeared in English-language media accounts about the massacre in March, 2012, March, 2013 (including for the first time on video) and June, 2013, as follows:

First, by Afghan reporter Sayed Salahuddin for the Washington Post, March 23, 2012:

Samisami-Ullah, a 30-year-old farmer, identified those [Alkozai -pw] victims as his mother, uncle and two cousins. Three others in his family were wounded, he said, along with three from his neighbors’ families. Five of the six wounded were transported to a U.S. military hospital, where three victims remain.

One girl, superficially wounded, was treated at a local hospital, villagers said.


To date [March 23rd, 2012, the date that Bales was charged with 17 murders -pw], the U.S. military has not contacted any witnesses or those who lost relatives, said [Mohammad -pw] Wazir, provincial officials and others who have talked to the massacre victims’ families. “None of them have come to investigate, or to talk to us, or seen the village,” Wazir said angrily. “We want justice.”


Samisami-Ullah said that wounded relatives told him, “There were 10 soldiers in our neighborhood alone.”

Read the rest of this entry »

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The consequential truth about Senate rules and practice that neither political Party will publicly explain and our Free Press ignores

I sincerely hope that there are enough American citizens, enough members of our national media, and, most importantly today, enough United States Senators remaining – long-time incumbents and newly-elected alike – who appreciate, and care enough to fight to preserve, the irreplaceable role in our self-governing Republic of a public, deliberative legislative body that democratically creates the laws under which we live. I further hope that enough Americans take heed of these rarely-reported, but unavoidable and pivotal truths about our federal Senate, before the egalitarian Senate, like the House before it, devolves into a barren, backroom-run Party dictatorship that effectively closes the Senate Chamber even to its elected members. [If anyone thinks that’s an exaggeration, please tune in to the House Chamber, and the Speaker-run House Rules Committee, more often. As a direct result of past Party-driven House rule changes, when the House Chamber’s seats are soon filled for the President’s State of the Union address, it will be one of only a handful of days a year when that mostly-empty and sparsely-lit legislative Chamber now ever sees its membership, or even a significant minority thereof, seated together there for any purpose whatsoever, never mind for public legislating.]

The Senate is the last federal legislative body whose longstanding, time-tested default rules – as distinct from its current, corrupt Party practices – still provide for a deliberative, democratic legislative forum at the federal level, despite the destructive and secretive way in which the Senate is now operated by the political Parties. Dishonest partisan claims about the Senate rules are rampant, particularly when it comes to distinguishing between the default simple-majority Senate rules (and accompanying live floor) feared by the Parties, and the 1917-created optional supermajority cloture rule that both Parties now favor – by their actions, if not by their words – in lieu of non-cloture order.

I also hope that there are enough independent-thinking Americans left to ask why, if Senate “rule reform” proponents are acting in good faith and in the best interests of the Senate and nation, these basic facts about our national legislature have been, without challenge by the media, so egregiously omitted, misstated, repeatedly twisted into half-truths, or otherwise abused by them, to obvious Party advantage, at the expense of the nonpartisan Senate itself. In addition to prominent partisan members of the media and others, I’m referring to incumbent federal legislators – in particular, of late, Senators Harry Reid of Nevada, Tom Udall of New Mexico, Jeff Merkley of Oregon, and Tom Harkin of Iowa – who claim to be proponents of fair Senate “reform” – yet somehow manage to assign no blame to their own majority Party for the current dysfunctional state of the Senate. These reformers and their promoters seem to take care never to define exactly what they mean by the word “filibuster,” for example, in terms precise enough to be compared to the actual rules of the Senate. (I’d like to at least credit one or two of these Senators for acting with good intentions, but their longstanding, unwavering Party-protecting refusal to tell the whole truth about the Senate’s present realities makes that difficult.)

The present, indisputable Senate dysfunction, I think any fair, honest diagnosis of the procedural cause(s) would find, is due to the ongoing two-Party abuse of Senate “quorum call” practice; the current majority Party’s record use of the supermajority cloture motion rule in the absence of debating filibusters (yes, the majority Democrats have voluntarily imposed that supermajority rule on themselves for fear of a live Senate floor, as further explained below, and at greater length elsewhere); the very destructive blocking of legislative floor deliberation by Majority Leader Reid’s abusive filling of the procedural amendment “tree,” or chart, with nonsense amendments (to avoid being “blindsided,” as Reid calls democratic floor amending); and to other Party practices that short-change or end-run regular parliamentary procedure – such as, to quote from December remarks by Senator Jerry Moran of Kansas, the fact that “we have seen rule XIV used to bypass committee work nearly 70 times in the last 6 years.” (I assume that I don’t need to spell out why partisan Senators of a self-serving Party minority do not voluntarily speak up to point out to the public and media that the Senate’s default rules provide for simple-majority order, even as the majority Party continues to regularly displace those default rules with an optional supermajority cloture rule…)

The two national fundraising organizations known as Parties demand that our federal representatives ‘play for pay’ in the widely-despised but media-fed “team sport” of raw Party power grabs that now dominates our federal House and Senate. To their discredit, almost all of our federal representatives agree to “play” for their “teams,” when it matters most to Party leadership, in the name of job security or for fear of ‘rocking the boat.’ (“Independent” Bernie Sanders and veteran Senate Budget Committee Chair Kent Conrad most definitely included. It was now-retired Conrad who used the term “team sport” while lamenting on his way out of the Senate what Congress has become, and yet Conrad, at Party direction, for years obediently prevented his own committee from acting on a Senate budget as required by law – Party direction that apparently originated across the “separated-power” dividing line in the White House.) We, however – unlike, dangerously, most of our national media organizations via political campaign advertising – aren’t receiving Party perks or pay-offs, and can and should tell the truth about what’s being done, or not being done, in our names in Congress.

Lewis Lapham quoting an 1838 James Fenimore Cooper description of the forthright conduct that we should all insist our public servants demonstrate in such a debate:

“[T]he conviction of the necessity of speaking truth, when speaking at all; a contempt for all designing evasions of our real opinions. In all the general concerns, the public has a right to be treated with candor.

So, once more with feeling, these are some of the truths that Party loyalists don’t want to hear, and will not speak: Read the rest of this entry »

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Did DOD+NYT+Reuters+AP Fabricate Panjwai Victims, Or Were 21 Killed?

For details of the U.S. Army’s investigation of this mass murder, and the commanding general’s AR 15-6 review, see the Timelines linked in the December 31, 2015 note atop Public Panjwai Massacre Facts

A small photograph of freelance Afghan reporter Mamoon Durrani

Mamoon Durrani

This post draws conclusions from my April 10 Panjwai post and comment thread, and was made possible by the generosity and courageous Panjwai reporting and photography of an independent Afghan journalist named Mamoon Durrani (who files from Afghanistan for Agence France-Presse, the BBC, and others). Durrani was able to cross the language barrier between us, despite his limited English, to share some of what he learned about the Panjwai Massacre on March 11 and 12, 2012, and since, with the English-speaking world.

November 16, 2012 Note

The additions/revisions/confirmations in green text below (primarily in the casualty box) are a result of information revealed, directly or indirectly, by the reports (and Tweets) of journalists who attended the Army’s November 5-13, 2012, UCMJ Article 32 hearing for SSG Robert Bales at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state (see the foot of my April post’s Comment 17 for more). There was remote Article 32 hearing testimony (electronically transmitted from Kandahar city) by a selection of Panjwai survivors (primarily those shot at the Haji Mohammad Naim home in Alkozai), but no direct testimony from adult Afghan women, and only relayed, and apparently contested, testimony (to the Army in June) from one of two eyewitness widows. (The other widow – Nazar Mohammad’s wife Maryam – has never been interviewed by the non-Afghan media, despite the multiple traumas she experienced that night. The only witness who’s been heard from about the Alkozai deaths of Maryam’s husband and 2-year-old daughter Khatima/Toraki – in one media interview, and in the Article 32 hearing at the request of the defense – is Nazar Mohammad’s 7-year-old daughter Noorbinak/Robina.) Article 32 hearing media reports revealed for the first time, among other things, the names of the nine adult victims (eight killed, one wounded) on the redacted June 1 Bales Charge Sheet (as listed in two Associated Press tweets1, 2; see screen captures below); the names of all six wounded on the redacted June 1 Bales Charge Sheet (summarized in the new paragraph above the casualty box below); and, per her father, via Mamoon Durrani on November 7, the identity of the (original mystery) DOD-identified wounded Panjwai victim referenced in the post’s title. Given its post-July updates, as first indicated in Comment 8 below, this post could now – with one DOD-generated mystery solved as a result of the Article 32 hearing, but another mystery (or 2 or 3) raised – more accurately be titled:

Did DOD+NYT+Reuters+Bloomberg+AFP+AP Fabricate Panjwai Victims, Or Were 29+ Killed?


December 11, 2012 Note

I discovered today, thanks to the mapping skills and generous patience of Mamoon Durrani, that both of the maps I’ve had in this post since July (now the last two below) – including the one with the black circle, sourced to Afghan officials investigating the massacre – inaccurately locate Camp Belamby/Belambay and thus the site of the Panjwai Massacre by more than five miles. (As does the BBC map included in my April post.) Apparently misled by the existence of a second “Alkozi” village in the Panjwai district (perhaps the only one large enough to be labeled), both maps I originally included in this post placed Combat Outpost Belamby, Alkozai, Najiban/Balandi, and the Dawood home 6-10 miles east of their actual Horn of Panjwai locations near the village(s) of Zangabad, northwest of Sharakhan – closer to the Dowry River and the Registan Desert, and further away from Kandahar city. See below for the three new maps I added to the post today, just above the older maps, for the corrected massacre location, new context, and for links to aerial photo close-ups of the individual sites that Mamoon very helpfully pinpointed with the help of locals after his hazardous visit(s) to that war zone on a civilian battlefield.


On January 17, 2013, reporter Gene Johnson of the Associated Press published for the first time all the names of Panjwai victims on the Army’s redacted 6/1 Charge Sheet:


Murdered (at three homes in Alkozai’s Ibrahim Khan Houses neighborhood):

Na’ikmarga, Khudai Dad, Nazir Mohammad, Tora/Gulalai

Murdered (at the Mohammad Dawood home one-half kilometer northeast of Najiban):

Mohammad Dawud

Murdered (at the Mohammad Wazir home in Najiban):

Shah Tarina, Zahrah, Naazyah, Akhtar Mohammad, Masuma, Farida, Palwasha, Nabia, Ismattullah, Faizullah, Issa Mohammad

Wounded (at two homes in Alkozai’s Ibrahim Khan Houses neighborhood):

Haji Mohammad Naim, Zardana, Rafiullah, Parmina, Sadiquallah, Robina


One Year Later – March 11, 2013 – Three Survivors Speak

Today, a year after the massacre, Afghan-born multimedia journalist Lela Ahmadzai, and the 2470media company of Germany, released a moving web documentary film, and three very valuable separate video interviews, featuring Panjwai Massacre survivors:

Silent Night: The Kandahar Massacre

The survivors include eyewitness Rafiullah (15) from Ibrahim Khan Houses of Alkozai, eyewitness Hekmatullah Gul (10) from south of COP Belamby, and Haji Mohammad Wazir from Najiban/Balandi. The Pashto-language video footage, with English and German subtitles, allows these survivors to speak for themselves, so the world can finally hear at length, in their own words, what some of the victims experienced that day and how it has affected their lives since. All three interviews were filmed on October 4, 2012 in Kabul. The two eyewitness accounts reveal new information, and confirm existing reports, about the participation of more than one soldier in the attacks that night.


June 5, 2013

The Massacre in Zangabad, Panjwai: Afghan Testimony, As Reported

(November, 2012 Article 32 hearing; includes a timeline, and two new maps: 1, 2)


January 19, 2014

Public Panjwai Massacre Facts

(Introduces new Storify reports of the Army’s August, 2013 sentencing hearing)


Perhaps if the international media, and particularly the U.S. media, would turn its lofty, self-righteous talk, about the rights of females in Afghanistan, into its walk – by, for example, seeking to obtain and report the eyewitness accounts of the many women (not to mention the many young girls) who survived the Panjwai Massacre – we might have a better idea by now of the answer to the question posed in the post’s title (among many other still-unanswered questions about the Panjwai Massacre).

Instead, the U.S. media basically delegated the actual gathering of facts in the dangerous environs of Camp Belamby, aka Combat Outpost (COP) Belamby (aerial photo added 12/11/12), to the intrepid Afghan reporters and photographers who were first (and mostly only) on the scene, and then busied itself with its official-source-quoting method of “journalism” (frequently accompanied by accountability-free anonymity) – the results of which practically drown out the actual, essential fact reporting about what happened in the Panjwai Massacre, even in the earliest March 11th coverage.

Thus, today, almost four months after the attack, of at least five adult females (and likely at least three more women in Alkozai) who are now known to have witnessed the Panjwai attack(s) on March 11, only oneMassouma, who watched her husband Mohammad Dawood be shot in the head and killed – has been (briefly) interviewed (twice) by English-language media for publication (almost certainly in large part due to dogged efforts by her brother-in-law Baran Akhon to get her story told): once over the telephone by Bette Dam for a March 23rd GlobalPost.com internet press report [page “no longer available” 10/8; replacement link], and once on-camera, under an assumed name, by Yalda Hakim for a March 27th Australian television broadcast.

Likewise, to the best of my knowledge, to date Yalda Hakim has conducted, for the same March 27 television broadcast, the only interview of a girl who witnessed the Panjwai attack(s): 8-year-old Noorbinak of Alkozai (it appears or close by specifically, from Alkozai’s Ibrahim Khan Houses neighborhood), who watched her father Nazar Mohammad, and 2-year-old sister Khatima (aka Toraki), shot and killed in front of her, before she herself was shot in the leg. (I learned the identity of Noorbinak’s father, and her village, only this week from Mamoon Durrani’s information. Further confirmation of Noorbinak’s parentage seems advisable.) We didn’t learn until mid-May, when Jon Stephenson of McClatchy wrote an important, chilling, and detailed account [link broken in their 9/24 website move; alternative link] of the four murders in Alkozai, that Noorbinak (who, notably, isn’t mentioned in the Stephenson account) apparently has two other, younger sisters (or half-sisters) who survived the night’s terror in Alkozai: 6-year-old Rubbinah (who was wounded), and 5-year-old Naseema, who both fled for their lives through the darkness, Naseema first to one home, then another, and finally away from the 3-4 adjacent homes that were targeted in Alkozai, to another location in the village. [Those 3-4 adjacent Alkozai homes are, per McClatchy, Nazar Mohammad’s, Mohammad Naim’s, and Sayed Jan’s, including a Sayed Jan guesthouse (or guestroom) where one man named Khudaydad was killed. Stephenson reports that some children of Nazar Mohammad (Rubbinah and Naseema) were staying in the Sayed Jan home (Jan was away at his farm), with Nazar Mohammad’s first wife Shah Babo. See my casualty list below for more, and my original post (which I will soon be editing/updating have edited and updated to match the new facts I’ve learned from Mamoon). Also see the important later account of the attack on Alkozai’s Ibrahim Khan Houses neighborhood that was provided in October, 2012, by an eyewitness teenage boy (one of the survivors interviewed by Stephenson), which I added to the caption of the first photograph below on January 5, 2013 (in key respects, Rafiullah’s October account differs significantly from Stephenson’s May McClatchy reporting).]

In addition to the three young daughters of Nazar Mohammad (two of them wounded) who survived, a young daughter of neighbor Mohammad Naim was shot and wounded in Alkozai: Parmina (age unknown 1516), sister of Sediqullah (11-14), who was also shot and wounded in his father’s home (Sediqullah is the young boy interviewed on-camera by Yalda Hakim for DatelineSBS). Jon Stephenson (a McClatchy special correspondent from New Zealand) reported in May that “around a dozen” half-asleep Naim family members watched 5 children be shot, and a grandmother – Khalida, aka Nikmarghah, wife of Sayed Jan, who’d fled from next door – killed in the Naim home, and that a total of 19 people resided there, including 3 women and 8 girls – none of whom have been heard from in the English-language media about what they saw that night, as far as I know.

Besides the 11 girls who may have witnessed the attacks in Alkozai, there are apparently 7 6 children in the Dawood family, including at least a couple of young girls – and, importantly, as explained further below, these Dawood children witnessed an attack that did not take place in Najiban village proper, but instead at a home located about 1/2 KM away from Najiban. However, only brief comments from two of Dawood’s (unidentified) young sons have been aired by the English-language media, and in Najiban village proper, of course, no one survived the slaughter in the Mohammad Wazir home (as confirmed this week by Mohammad Wazir, via Durrani – i.e., the rumor/report of an adult sister surviving the Wazir home attack is false).

In stark contrast to that “Western” media track record, on March 11 itself, in the immediate aftermath of the slaughter, Mamoon Durrani personally interviewed three of those five adult female eyewitnesses, about the attacks they witnessed that night in two different locations near Camp Belamby. And yet it appears that, almost four months after the attack, no more than a sentence or two of the interviews Durrani conducted with those 3 women have ever been made public, in English – though those interviews (and videos and photographs) are freely available from him. (And I very much doubt that Durrani is the only Afghan reporter/photographer with an unseen wealth of raw Panjwai footage and information.) Here’s one of the sentences Durrani recorded that made it into the English-language media’s reporting about Panjwai, via AFP on March 11:

“May God kill the only son of Karzai, so he feels what we feel.”

– The Aunt and mother-in-law of Mohammad Dawood, a previously-unknown eyewitness to his murder, who gave a short recorded interview to Mamoon Durrani at her home on March 11, 2012
(see translated excerpts added below as of 11/30/2012)

Mamoon Durrani also interviewed at length on March 11 a rare, and previously-unmentioned, eyewitness (or at least ‘earwitness’) to the attack on the Mohammad Wazir home in Najiban (as did at least one other Afghan reporter or photographer on the scene) – a woman (see photo below) who remains unnamed (or, at least, as the following confusing Update paragraph indicates, has been given multiple names and identities, all unconfirmed and unverified), though a known neighbor of the affected Wazir household in that village, because of Afghan traditions respecting women (among other things..).

[August 8 Update/Addition: In a vivid illustration of the deplorable lack of visibility and coverage of the accounts of the many affected female eyewitnesses and survivors of the Panjwai Massacre, I learned by happenstance on August 7th that – unless she’s the eyewitness neighbor named “Palwasha” who I belatedly found described by Mohammad Wazir in BusinessWeek on March 23rd – the aforesaid “unnamed” female eyewitness to the attack on the Mohammad Wazir home in Najiban is in fact may be the surviving grandmother of the children of Mohammad Wazir and his wife Bibi Zahra; Bibi was, I assume, this woman’s daughter (since Mohammad Wazir’s mother, the grandmother on the father’s side of the family, was killed that night). That, at least, is according to this lone photo caption – that I happened upon online almost five months after the attacks while looking for something else – which I believe was provided courtesy of Afghan Associated Press photographer Allauddin Khan, who not only took this woman’s photograph, and evidently recorded her story on March 11, but wrote down her name as well: Anar Gul. ((((Edited August 11 to add: Searches on “Anar Gul” reveal that a number of media outlets indeed ran that caption with the same AP photograph, and also with another AP photograph of the same woman in the same minivan – a photo that shows the burned leg of one of the Wazir family victims – while she was holding a microphone during an interview. Notably, however, I’ve so far found only one article that actually quotes an “Anar Gul,” and that article says that her brother-in-law is “Samad Khan” (Abdul Samad, Wazir’s uncle) of “Balandi village” – which, if true, would likely mean that “Anar Gul” is not the grandmother of the Wazir children. That Xinhua article also indicates that Anar Gul heard, apparently, her door being pounded on in the “nearby Zangabad village” – though Zangabad village (see map captions below), as opposed to the Zangabad area, is evidently more than five miles to the southwest quite near [see December 11, 2012 Note at top of post] the [corrected] location of Camp Belamby – and also quotes 57-year-old “Zangabad villager” Allah Gul, and a woman named Rahila who lost her brother. There is, in addition, a New York Times article from March 11, excerpted in my April 10th post, that quotes an “Anar Gula,” who’s described as an elderly neighbor who rushed to the [Mohammad Wazir] house…”, and who said, among other things, “we put out the fire.”)))) Yet unlike Mohammad Wazir’s uncle Abdul Samad, who was away the night of the attack but has been prominently quoted by the media about his losses, Anar Gulpossibly present that night in at least some capacity [unless even if Anar Gul actually does live in Zangabad village proper], and [possibly] the sole surviving grandmother of the murdered children and surviving Wazir child – has apparently so far been publicly quoted to a very limited extent only as an anonymous villager making a few general remarks about the Najiban attack – through the BBC and AFP reporting of Mamoon Durrani – apart from that one photo caption by an Afghan AP photographer (and the March 18 Xinhua article by Abdul Haleem and Yangtze Yan).]

[[Updated September 14 to add: The following quote is a translated excerpt from an invaluable 6-minute Pashto-language video by Pajhwok Afghan News Video Services {I later substituted a YouTube link for the original link}, that’s been posted online since March 12 (with portions apparently made available to other media outlets since March 11). I belatedly discovered this rare public video footage through a helpful GlobalPost.com “live blog” page compiled by Priyanka Boghani, which linked to a March 12 Robert Mackey New York Times blog post. The Pajhwok video contains short interviews about the Panjwai Massacre with two different women, both apparently witnesses – the first is the woman possibly named “Anar Gul” (photo; Pajhwok screen capture); the second is an unidentified woman (Pajhwok screen capture) I’ve seen in no other photo or footage, who gestures while describing what happened, including apparently showing her hair being pulled…(screen capture; also see the shorter video clips I found in late November, as linked and transcribed below, and the 12/3 Update below identifying this witness as a grandmother of the Mohammad Dawood family, from south of Camp Belamby). [The video also includes March 11 footage of Asadullah Khalid – who was nominated and approved in September to head Afghanistan’s CIA-funded National Directorate of Security – speaking to the Afghan media at Camp Belamby while standing next to Haji Abdul Samad of Najiban (screen capture; another capture from a higher-quality video I found in late November), and brief footage of a grief-stricken Haji Sayed Jan of Alkozai at Camp Belamby March 11 (similar screen captures from other videos: 1, 2).] Robert Mackey found the following translation of a 10-second portion of the minute-plus (Pashto-language) Pajhwok interview of Anar Gul, in a shorter English-language-narrated March 12 Al Jazeera video – that includes about two minutes of the 6 minutes of Pajhwok footage – and helpfully included that translation in his New York Times blog post; an Al Jazeera subtitle in their video (narrated by Bernard Smith in Kabul) identifies Anar Gul as “Gul Bashra, Mother:”

They killed a child who was 2 years old. Was this child Taliban? There is no Taliban here. Americans are always threatening us with dogs and helicopters during night raids.” Gul Bashra, Mother, speaking in a Pajhwok Afghan News Video Services clip – from a minivan carrying two Najiban village, Wazir/Samad family Panjwai Massacre victims – at COP Belamby, Panjwai district, Kandahar province, March 11, 2012

This YouTube video that I found November 18th contains more of the same interview of “Gul Bashra” in Pashto (here she speaks, with a boy who seems to be her son and is seen in the vehicle with her in this 6:07 footage, for a total of three minutes, and someone has added a few Pashto subtitles to the footage).

[According to a March 12 New Yorker blog post, “Gul Bashra” also said (to a BBC reporter; no link – but see the BBC video link and further translation I added 11/30, just below): “I told my son not to speak because the Americans are here. They went next door and the first thing they did was shoot the dog. And then there was a muffled bang inside the room – but who could go and see?” The same blog post reports that another, unnamed, woman (possibly confirmed [see below] to be the second woman interviewed in the Pajhwok video above) told the BBC (no link – but see the AFP-TV video link and further translation I added 11/30, just below): “There was one man, and he dragged a woman by her hair and banged her head repeatedly against the wall. She didn’t say a word.”]

On March 11, without naming her, U.S. commercial television network ABC-TV played four seconds of the same footage of Anar Gul/Gul Bashra seen in the Pajhwok video (as part of a 2:38 ABC News video clip also hosted on the GlobalPost.com live blog page, under the heading “UPDATE: 3/12/12 12:15 PM ET Eyewitness account”), during which Martha Raddatz – Senior National Security Correspondent for ABC News, reporting from Washington, D.C. – tellingly informed her audience that Gul said (only): “‘He killed a child,’ says this mother. ‘Was this child part of the Taliban?'” That account seems to have aired on Sunday morning, U.S. time. On ABC’s World News Tonight, Sunday evening, the same brief footage of Anar Gul/Gul Bashra is played, and this time the narrator (Muhammad Lila in Islamabad, Pakistan) quotes Gul as saying: “‘They killed a child,’ says this grieving mother. ‘Was this child part of the Taliban?'”]]

[[In post-November-18 searches of YouTube I found four more clips of the same or similar Gul Bashra/Anar Gul interview footage, this time with English translations of more of what the Afghan reporter(s) were told March 11 by Gool Booshra (phonetically, according to this BBC-News video’s narration) – which I’ve transcribed below (added to the post on November 30th; bracketed inserts mine).]]

BBC video translation: “It was 2:00 in the morning [she holds up two fingers, apparently to represent the time]. I woke up for my fasting breakfast. When I turned the light on, I heard noises. I told my son [looks at and gestures toward him on the other side of the minivan] not to speak because the Americans are here. They were telling us to be quiet, and not to come out. When he kicked the door, my door had a stone so it didn’t open. They moved from my door, and went next door and the first thing they did was to shoot the dog, and then there was a muffled bang inside the room – but who could go and see. And then there were two planes overhead.”
(70 seconds in a 1:12 video uploaded March 12)
[Compare stated timing to the Article 32 testimony of a U.S. Army witness concerning the whereabouts of SSG Bales at 2:00-2:15 AM that night. And to the Bales Article 32 hearing testimony of Afghan National Army guard Tosh Ali (the soldier on the right in this screen capture), who said he saw an American soldier leave Camp Belamby (1+ KM north of the Wazir home), on foot, at 2:30 AM. Gul Bashra’s stated timing is corroborated by the account of Wazir neighborhood resident Agha Lala in Reuters (“he was awoken by gunfire at about 2 a.m.“). At the Mohammad Dawood home, .5 KM east of the Wazir home, Dawood nephew Toor Jan/Ali Ahmad is quoted by CNN, as a witness, saying: “It was around 3 at night that they entered the room.” And non-witness Dawood brother Haji Baran Akhon told President Karzai, based on the accounts of surviving witnesses, that “it was two or three in the morning” when the attack happened at the isolated Dawood home.]

AFP-TV video translation: “Four were girls and four others were boys. Now there are only two. They assassinated children, including those who were just two years old. For God’s sake, is it supposed to be done to Muslims? Is this two-year-old child a Taliban fighter? I swear by God, I haven’t seen any Taliban fighters for the last five months. They search our homes with dogs and helicopters. At the beginning they allowed us to live in this area. They said we have nothing to do with you people. This is your own village and your country.”
(70 seconds in a 1:26 video uploaded March 12)

CNN video narration by Sara Sidner: “This base told us to come back to our villages. They said we won’t bother you. This is your land and this is your own village. Then those dogs come and grab us.”
(12 seconds in a 2:16 video uploaded March 13)

BBC-News video narration by Mike Woodridge: “They killed a two-year-old child. Was this child a Taliban? Believe me, I’ve not seen a two-year-old Taliban member yet.”
(15 seconds in a 2:07 video uploaded March 11)

Gul Bashra of Najiban village, Panjwai district, March 11, 2012

(See also Gul Bashra’s 1-minute and 3-minute Pashto-language interviews.)

Multimedia journalist Lela Ahmadzai, a trilingual Pashto speaker, has very helpfully provided me with the following translation of Gul Bashra’s 1-minute Pashto-language Pajhwok Afghan News video interview (added December 15th):
“Four girls and four boys. Some are two years old. Is the child Taliban? In God’s name, I have seen no Taliban for five months. Their dogs check us and their helicopters are always there and check us. But this is our country and we can say nothing. We are leaving our own country and place because of them. Our doors are broken. That was not one person, there were many. There were many footprints. I could not go outside or I too would have been fired upon. Eleven people are dead. This family is erased.”
(1 minute in a 6:35 video uploaded March 12)

[“Four girls and four boys” may reference all the Wazir family victims except Wazir brother Akhtar Mohammad’s new wife Nadia or Nazia – indications are that her body may not have been transported to Camp Belamby – and Mohammad Wazir’s mother and wife, who may be the victims who were transported to the gate(s) of Compat Outpost Belamby in this vehicle.]

[[Also included on two of the above four YouTube videos I found after 11/18 are the first English translations I’ve seen of snippets of interviews with the previously-unknown, still-unnamed Dawood woman I first saw in the 6:35 Pajhwok video linked above. At least one of these three translations (including a second key AFP video), if accurate [which, as the 12/3 Edit just below explains, it may not be, and, as the alternative translation added below on December 15th indicates, it almost certainly is not] reveals the outlines of a trauma that as far as I can tell to date – November 30, 2012 – is not accounted for by any of the 16 admitted Panjwai Massacre deaths. This Agence France-Presse footage and English translation (if accurate as transcribed below) is seemingly misleadingly appeared to be the first known public video evidence of an eyewitness describing a Panjwai Massacre murder (of an unidentified 7-year-old boy) that is not charged to SSG Bales. If the following translations are accurate, the unknown unnamed woman is a [Dawood family] mother and grandmother.]]

AFP-TV video translation (but see 12/3 edit and 12/15 alternative translation just below): “They brought my dearest 7-year-old grandchild here and killed him in front of me. And he put the Kalashnikov barrel in my daughter-in-law’s mouth. And he was pulling my daughter by her hair outside. I saw one person. He had a Kalashnikov.”
(16 seconds in a 1:00 video uploaded March 12)

CNN video narration by Sara Sidner: “One guy came in and pulled a boy from his sleep and he shot him in this doorway. Then they came back inside the room and put a gun in the mouth of another child and stomped on another boy.”
(11 seconds in a 2:16 video uploaded March 13)

BBC video translation: “I saw one man. I can’t lie. I didn’t see another. There was one man and he dragged a woman by her hair, and banged her head repeatedly against the wall. She didn’t say a word.”
(10 seconds in a 1:12 video uploaded March 12)

Unidentified Dawood Grandmother (mother of Mohammad Dawood’s wife Massouma, and Aunt of Mohammad Dawood and Haji Baran Akhon/Mullah Barraan) from an unidentified village who was [mistakenly] translated as saying she saw her unidentified 7-year-old grandson shot to death in front of her during the Panjwai Massacre, March 11, 2012

(See also the grandmother’s 30-second Pashto-language interview.)

Edited December 3, to add: As indicated in the 1-minute AFP-TV video, the non-NATO Panjwai footage in that clip was recorded by Mamoon Durrani for AFP. On December 3rd (after the Afghan government’s 3-month blockage of the YouTube site was finally lifted, at least in part) Mamoon confirmed for me that the footage is indeed from his March 11th reporting, and told me that the unknown woman is in fact the “Aunt” (or possibly and mother-in-law??) of Mohammad Dawood, who is referenced, and briefly quoted, earlier in the post. Futhermore, based on Mamoon’s recollection of his conversation with the Dawood grandmother, she did not tell Mamoon (in Pashto) that a grandson of hers was “killed” (contrary to the AFP-TV video’s English translation of her words transcribed above). Likewise, the Dawood grandmother apparently did not say that a grandson of hers (or a “boy”) was “shot,” either, contrary to the CNN video’s English translation of a different Pashto-language interview. Mamoon instead remembers the Dawood grandmother showing him where her adult nephew (or and son-in-law) Mohammad Dawood was killed, and telling him that the soldier put a gun in the mouth of her grandson. Thus, indications are that one or more of these English translations of the Dawood grandmother may not in fact be accurate…

Edited December 15, to add: Here is an apparently accurate translation – that confirms the interviewer’s own memory of the conversation – of Mamoon Durrani’s excerpted AFP-TV interview footage of Mohammad Dawood’s mother-in-law and Aunt (the full original interview lasts less than 60 seconds), which has been very kindly provided to me by multimedia journalist Lela Ahmadzai, a trilingual Pashto speaker (bracketed inserts are mine):

The murdered man [Mohammad Dawood] is my son-in-law and nephew [she used the non-specific Pashto word “lala” for Dawood; exact relationship confirmed by her nephew Haji Mullah Barraan, via Mamoon Durrani]. It happened last night, right here [she gestured toward the bloodstained rug on the floor]. The child [apparently meaning her 6-month-old grandson Hazratullah, seen here in his mother’s arms]: he held the gun in his mouth; pulled the woman’s hair [apparently meaning her daughter Massouma, Dawood’s wife]. He beat her head against the wall. I saw only one person. May I be blinded if I lie. I saw only one person.
(16 seconds in a 1:00 video uploaded March 12)

[Before I learned the identity of this Dawood family grandmother and corrected the name of the .jpg file accordingly, this or a similar uploaded screen capture of her briefly had the file name of: “Unidentified grandmother who lost her favorite grandson in Panjwai Massacre, AFP-TV screen capture, March 11, 2012.”]

To be fair to any members of the media who tried to get into Panjwai a day or two after the attacks to report the story, both the Taliban – who immediately made access to the Mohammad Wazir home in Najiban an IED-laden hazard, according to Wazir via Durrani – and the U.S. military/ISAF/NATO were doing their best to prevent such visits. [A village elder told Durrani March 11 that the Taliban have a mosque only about 2 kilometers from the Camp Belamby area, and soldiers at the Camp warned him that the fort-like Grape Hut structures (“kishmish khana” in Pashto), which are used to dry the grape crop into raisins, are a common launching post of the Taliban for attacks or sniper fire, including on Camp Belamby. See this photo of a Najiban Grape Hut or “Raisins Home” that Durrani took in July (see also this aerial photo of a similar structure elsewhere), and this photo of the interior of a Kandahar Grape Hut. (One screen capture of DatelineSBS footage of Alkozai included in my April 10 post appears to show an Alkozai Grape Hut in the distance on the right, beside the lane and bordering vineyards.) This U.S. Army photo, taken July 30, 2012 in the Panjwai district, includes a good view of the entranceway on one end of a traditional Afghan kishmishkhana/grape-drying hut.]

Mamoon Durrani told the BBC in an informative (and highly-recommended) 8-minute radio interview March 17 that the U.S. military even tried to prevent the Afghan reporters and photographers who quickly made it to Camp Belamby on the day of the massacre from leaving the base to visit the affected villages. Durrani succeeded in quickly overcoming that hurdle because he was recognized by someone in the crowd of (as many as 300) demonstrators outside the Camp, who hugged him and offered to take him to a village (apparently Alkozai, to begin with). Thus Durrani apparently saw all of the victims in Alkozai (collected together into the Sayed Jan home from the three homes in which they had been killed – a circumstance that has led to widespread misreporting that the four Alkozai deaths all occurred in one home), and at the Dawood home (I believe), and in Najiban at the Wazir home, before they had been transported in vehicles by the villagers to (but apparently not inside) Camp Belamby. Durrani photographed the 16 bodies he saw on March 11 (which, as indicated by this March 11 AFP report, included the body of Mohammad Wazir’s mother lying near the doorway of the main gate to her Najiban home), and video-recorded the 6 wounded he saw on March 12 at the Kandahar Airfield military hospital.

Something else that’s apparently never been made public in the English-language media about the attacks in Panjwai is that the home of Mohammad Dawood – who was killed that night – is not in Balandi/Najiban village proper (a settlement located 1.25 KM, or about one mile, southwest of Camp Belamby). Instead, as a portion of a map [see July-posted black-circled version below] from an Afghan government source reveals (and as Durrani himself can attest after visiting the Dawood home on March 11), the Dawood home sits alone about one-half kilometer east/northeast of the small Najiban/Balandi neighborhood where the Mohammad Wazir family was killed – across a vineyard, or “Grapes garden” as Durrani calls it, probably a wheat field, and multiple farm fields. The first map, and aerial photos below – which I updated/added on December 11th, as noted at the top of the post – clearly show that the isolated Dawood home is almost as far from the Wazir home (both south of COP Belamby), as Alkozai is from COP Belamby (.5 KM or about one-third mile north of the US/Afghan special operators base at Belambai). [To place the following “Horn of Panjwai” map and photos into context relative to the locations of Panjwai center/town (Bazaar-e Panjwai) and Kandahar city, see this map and this aerial photo.]

A corrected, December, 2012 version of a Panjwai Massacre investigation map that now marks with two red arrows the accurate location of the massacre in the Horn of Panjwai or Zangabad area of Kandahar province, Afghanistan

As noted above, on December 11, 2012, I added this map to the post, along with the following aerial photographs, to show the accurate location of the Panjwai Massacre in the Horn of Panjwai, or Zangabad area, of Kandahar province, Afghanistan. Camp Belamby and the attacked villages and homes are not where the black “bullseye” circle cropped from the right side of this map placed them (see full circle in original, July-posted map below), but are instead more than five miles to the west, in the approximate location indicated by the two red arrows I’ve added to the map above. The massacre took place very near the village(s) of Zangabad, in the wider area that’s also known as Zangabad (or Zangall Abad) among local residents. The Registan Desert begins on the south bank of the Dowry River, which is the southern of the two rivers visible on this map (the Arghandab River is to the north) shortly before their confluence about 15 miles west of the massacre scene.

A 2009 GoogleEarth aerial photo, added to the post on December 11, 2012, showing the accurate locale of the Panjwai Massacre in the Horn of Panjwai, or Zangabad area, of Panjwai district, Kandahar province, Afghanistan. North is straight up. The red circle I’ve added to the photo surrounds the villages of Alkozai on the north, Najiban/Balandi on the south, the Mohammad Dawood home in the bulldozed area east of Najiban, and joint U.S./Afghan base Combat Outpost Belamby close to the center of the circle, as pinpointed in the aerial photo below (North is straight up here; East is straight up in the photo below).

A 2004 GoogleEarth aerial photo of the area where the Panjwai Massacre took place on March 11, 2012 in the Horn of Panjwai, Kandahar province, Afghanistan, about midway between the Arghandab and Dowry Rivers. (Added to the post December 11, 2012. Click photo for larger version. North is to the left.) Afghan reporter Mamoon Durrani personally visited each labeled site – all located to the east/northeast of lower Zangabad village as marked on the preceding 2009 aerial photograph (lower Zangabad village is just off this photo to the lower right) – and then precisely pinpointed them on this photo. Thanks to Mamoon’s careful mapping of the places he visited, I’ve now been able to locate and link close-ups of the individual sites on 2009 GoogleEarth photos (where North is again straight up, in alignment with the wider area photo just above this one), as follows: The Haji Sayed Jan home and, just to its east, the smaller attached homes (and guest quarters) of Haji Mohammad Naim and Haji Nazar Mohammad (Haji Sayed Jan’s murdered brother) – which together make up Alkozai’s Ibrahim Khan Houses; Camp Belamby, east of the road and an orchard; Haji Mohammad Dawood home amid bulldozed/barren vineyards and orchards; Haji Mohammad Wazir home in Najiban, center-bottom right, just west of a wheat field. Also see the photograph, taken at the graveyard marked above, that I’ve added to the foot of the post.

A Panjwai Massacre investigation map that, as circled, MISPLACES the location of the massacre more than 5 miles east of the actual scene and site of Camp Belamby

This is a map being used by Afghan authorities investigating the March 11, 2012 Panjwai Massacre. [On December 11, 2012, I discovered, with the help of Mamoon Durrani, that the circled “bullseye” location on this map is in fact WRONG – though the layout of the four specified locations linked with red within the circle is now confirmed by Durrani’s careful mapping (see preceding photo). The circled location is wrong because it, like the McClatchy graphic just below (and the BBC map graphic in my April post), uses an “Alkozi” village as a reference point that is not the Alkozai where Panjwai Massacre victims lived. The victims lived in another, smaller “Alkozai” settlement some miles further west in the Horn of Panjwai, just northeast of lower Zangabad village – as shown by the map and aerial photographs now inserted above.] Note that the locations for Camp Belamby (“Bilambi Camp”), Najiban (“Najeban”), and the home of Mohammad Dawood (“Dawood’s home”), plus the English words “East” and “South,” the black circle, and three red pen marks connecting three locations to Camp (or COP) Belamby, have all apparently been inserted or overlaid on the original map. The “bad (1)” label visible on the lower left of the map is part of “Zangabad (1)” – which marks the location of the closer of two small Zangabad villages north of the Dowry River, as distinct from the wider Zangabad area, which covers most or all of this map.

For purposes of comparison, the following map graphic, produced by MCT Photo Service for an April 11 McClatchy story, provides a scale, and finer detail, including the location of the village of Mokhoyan (scene of the March 8 threats detailed here) and of some roads in the area immediately surrounding Camp Belamby (“Belambai”) – which is located in the center of the Zangabad area or region of the Panjwai district in Kandahar province, southeastern Afghanistan [note that the orientation of this graphic appears to be Northeast in the direction of its top side, not North as in the map above; and as noted at the top of the post December 11th, the McClatchy graphic mistakenly places the scene of the massacre, and uses an aerial photo location, southeast of Bazaar-e Panjwai, instead of 5-10 miles to its southwest]: Read the rest of this entry »

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Panjwai, March 11, 2012: Eyewitnesses to the Slaughter of Innocents

For details of the U.S. Army’s investigation of this mass murder, and the commanding general’s AR 15-6 review, see the Timelines linked in the December 31, 2015 note atop Public Panjwai Massacre Facts

During the hours between midnight and dawn on Sunday, March 11, 2012, local time (March 10, U.S. time), American troop(s) – one, according to non-eyewitnesses, more than one, according to most eyewitnesses – who’d been deployed, pursuant to the September, 2001 Congressional Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), at a small Forward Operating Base (FOB) [or Combat Outpost (COP; aerial photo, added 12/12/12)] named Camp Belambyreportedly a “U.S. special-operations forces base” – in Panjwai district, Kandahar province, southern Afghanistan, barbarically shot and killed at least 16 unarmed civilians – 9 8-10 children (six of them under Age 10), 4 4-5 women, and 3 4-7 men – in their homes and beds in two (or three) two-three, or more, nearby settlements, and wounded at least 7 others, including 5 more children.

With most families in that rural farming region of Panjwai apparently too poor even to afford guns, the only defenses those Afghan citizens had against the overwhelming force of their attacker(s) were their barking dogs; those dogs – according to two different accounts apparently originating in separate villages (one to BBC News from an unnamed woman in “Najeeban,” and one to Australian SBS-TV reporter Yalda Hakim from a wounded girl [Noorbinak, reportedly of Alkozai] who lost her father) – were the first creatures shot and killed by the heavily-armed attacker(s) that night. Attacker(s) who apparently didn’t face returning fire from even a single gun fired in self-defense by the terrorized villagers – who’ve been repeatedly subjected over the years to General Warrant-style entry-at-will into their homes by armed foreigners – targeted in either 2-3, or more, rural settlements clustered along narrow dirt lanes bordering wheat fields and vineyards. [“‘As we understand it, the special forces have the power to do whatever they want, such as conducting operations and arresting people,’ (Haji Mohammad) Noor (head of the Panjwayi district council) said.”]

Since then, as Senior Al Jazeera Producer Qais Azimy put it in a blog post on Monday, March 19:

Many mainstream media outlets channelled a significant amount of energy into uncovering the slightest detail about the accused soldier – now identified as [non-special-forces Army] Staff Sergeant Robert Bales. We even know where his wife wanted to go for vacation, or what she said on her personal blog.

But the victims became a footnote, an anonymous footnote. Just the number 16. No one bothered to ask their ages, their hobbies, their aspirations. Worst of all, no one bothered to ask their names.

In honoring their memory, I write their names below, and the little we know about them: that nine of them were children, three [or four, or five] were women.

Or, as an Everett, Washington commenter named “Filbert” put it 3/25 on the website of the Seattle Times, in response to the paper’s publication of an important March 24 Associated Press article about the victims: “Seattle Times, why do stories of Bales get plastered all over page 1 for 2 weeks, and when you finally get around to it, the story of this man [Mohammad Wazir of Balandi/Najiban, who lost 11 members of his family] is relegated to page A14?”

Azimy’s list – replicated at the foot of this post – does indeed seem to be the most comprehensive English-language account to date of the names of the killed and wounded in these small, close-knit farming communities. The U.S. government’s March 23, 2012 military Charge Sheet for Staff Sergeant Bales lists no ages for those killed, redacts all the names of the victims, and lists no name for the unknown 17th victim, evidently a female; yet the victims were apparently well-enough known to the U.S. military by Saturday, March 24 for surviving family members to receive some monetary compensation (The families of the dead, who received the money Saturday at the governor’s office, were told that the money came from U.S. President Barack Obama, said Kandahar provincial council member Agha Lalai”). The hurried early reporting does include scattered accounts of names and ages of some of the victims, but often confuses or omits their names and/or villages; their villages are likewise not specified by Azimy, nor included in the U.S. Charge Sheet. Only after Azimy’s 3/19 post was published did some more detailed and valuable English-language reporting about the victims begin to fill in some of the obvious gaps in coverage (joining an early, laudable New York Times report from March 12) – in the Wall Street Journal on March 22, at GlobalPost.com late March 22/early March 23, [in BusinessWeek March 22/23 {the BusinessWeek URL was later changed to BloombergBusiness}, including important information about a Najiban eyewitness, which I belatedly found and excerpted at the end of my follow-up July 7th post,] in the Associated Press on March 24, and in a humane opinion piece – “Are all innocent victims equal?” – by India/Kabul-based CNN International correspondent Sara Sidner, who took the time to include the names of all 16 killed (her source was Afghan officials, and her list matches the Qais Azimy list below, aside from regional differences in spelling and address).

Sara Sidner’s March 24 opinion piece compassionately echoes and reinforces Azimy’s:

These are the names of the men, women and children allegedly murdered by a U.S. soldier in Afghanistan’s Panjwai District in Kandahar Province on March 11, according to Afghan officials. The U.S. military has now added one more name to that list but no one has revealed that victim’s name so far.

In this case, the how was quickly explained by witnesses, village elders, Afghan and NATO officials: They were shot dead. But looking across local, regional and international media for days after the massacre the full list of names and ages was nowhere to be found.

Even when some of the family members of the victims and village elders came to Kabul to the presidential palace to speak with President Karzai [on Friday, March 16], few started by announcing their names but instead launched into accounts of what happened that night. And even they were at a loss to name every single victim at the time.


Also there is no real “digital footprint” in villages where electricity and running water are luxuries, making communication extremely difficult.

Ages were often hard to ascertain, because, like many places in the world with poverty and high illiteracy rates, people do not know their birth dates.


Life is not cheap. It never was and never will be — no matter where you live. I have witnessed the suffering of a mother in Oakland, California, whose child was killed by a bullet and the grieving of a mother in Sukur, Pakistan, whose child was swept away by a flood. There is no difference in the amount of pain they endure, or the tears they shed.

So in the interest of innocent victims everywhere, we as journalists need to work harder to find out who they were, to paint a picture of the lives they had and the people who grieve for them.

May they all rest in peace — and be counted.

To its great credit, in late March the Australian public television network SBS added to those valuable print reports (and to the invaluable early photographs and video footage obtained by Afghan reporters) some extremely helpful, difficult-to-obtain television footage – of interviews with some of the surviving relatives of those killed that night, and of one of the homes in one of the villages where people were killed – taken during a trip to Panjwai by Australian SBS-TV reporter Yalda Hakim and cameraman Ryan Sheridan for this March 27, 2012 SBS Dateline program (the main source of the multiple screen-captured images in this post):

Screen capture of 3/27/2012 SBS-TV broadcast of "Anatomy of a Massacre" with Panjwai graves in the background

Because of its sensationalism, among other, higher motives we can hope, many non-Afghan media outlets paired with local Afghan reporters to have at least one go at this story – a real “Saturday Night Massacre” committed by someone(s) serving in the Executive Branch of our government. The resulting coverage, as hasty and heavily Pentagon-tilted as it is, remains a valuable record, even though it primarily consists – once the many press-release pronouncements from nominally-responsible authorities are removed – of a muddled and unnecessarily confusing scattershot of information, which has been given little follow-up. To date, no non-Afghan account that I’ve seen has tried to systematically list, by location, name, relationship, and age, the 4-5 6 (or more) households primarily affected by the killer(s) that night, or to put faces to the foreign names for English-speaking audiences.

Nevertheless – in spite of the attempt by at least one American media outlet [print page “no longer available” 10/8; replacement link] to place blame for the confused reporting on the traumatized and grieving victims themselves, and the efforts of many in the media to imply that the real story is now shrouded in mystery or unobtainable, in the face of heavy Pentagon/NATO/ISAF pressure to toe the U.S. military’s “lone gunman” line on the attacks – when the scattered (and, obviously, translated, however imperfectly) snippets in media reports quoting Afghan witnesses and survivors are organized and examined, the accounts by the Afghan villagers seem to be remarkably consistent and coherent.

Notably, those accounts by Afghan villagers – in non-Afghan media outlets, though apparently mostly obtained by local, on-the-ground Afghan reporters – who witnessed the attacks, and/or their aftermath, provide very little corroboration from named Afghans describing a lone U.S. soldier as responsible. This is true even though more than one named survivor (three of them children) describes being shot at by a single (unidentified American, or “NATO,” in one case) soldier – because that single soldier is also generally described by the same survivor, or by their family, as being accompanied by other soldiers, often carrying lights, elsewhere in the home, or in the yard between the house itself and the courtyard wall that fronts the public street – a common layout in these small settlements, as seen in this screen capture from the SBS-TV Dateline footage of Alkozai filmed on March 23, 2012: Read the rest of this entry »

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For The Record: Senator Harry Reid “100% Supports” AG Holder’s March 5 Speech

On Monday, March 5, 2012, Attorney General Eric Holder gave a speech to law students in Chicago. The speech tried to clothe in a veneer of lawfulness the unchecked Executive Branch killing of American citizens, particularly the long-premeditated killing reported here – this time making the case outside the narrow, credulous confines of the D.C. Circuit appellate court, where federal judges consistently refuse to enforce Constitutional limits on Executive Branch departments (like Holder’s DOJ) when only the pleas of the powerless are at stake.

Holder’s carefully crafted presentation was, of course, a speech that amounts to the police and military powers of the Executive Branch of the government saying to the nation:

Trust us, citizens. Sure we’ll comply with the requirements of the ‘law of war’ and the broader field of ‘international law,’ in our ‘wartime’ actions at home and abroad – particularly when nobody ever bothers to enforce those requirements….”

To cite just the most glaring, decade-long example of this Holder-promoted Executive Branch ability to opt-out of “law” altogether, in practice, under cover of “the law of war” (as noted in the 3/1 update to my related launch post): Ifas claimed by the Executive Branch, whenever the “law of war” threatens to be enforced – “wartime” detainees aren’t detained (in Guantanamo, or Bagram, etc., etc.) pursuant to the 3rd Geneva Convention POW treaty ratified by the U.S. Senate (which mandates proper Article 5/Army Regulation 190-8 screening, and thus, if faithfully observed, adequate “non-judicial” due process) as part of an international armed conflict, then they’re detained pursuant to domestic law and its due process guarantees, and not pursuant to the international law of war.

But then, of course, we have the arguments that are hauled out by the DOJ when domestic law threatens to reassert itself (quoting from the 12/7/2010 Judge John Bates opinion that obligingly echoed government assertions of unchecked presidential power, and sealed Anwar Al-Awlaki’s fate): To hope to prevail against today’s national security state, Judge Bates decrees, a plaintiff (even one on a presidential hit list) must first overcome the “threshold” hurdles of standing, the [judiciary-concocted, so-called] political question doctrine, the Court’s exercise of its ‘equitable discretion,’ the absence of a cause of action under the Alien Tort Statute (‘ATS’), and the [judiciary-concocted, so-called] state secrets privilege.”

Meanwhile, our Congress continues to allow itself to be kept in the dark about even the self-serving Executive Branch Office of Legal Counsel’s – or any other – purported legal justification(s) for these armed-conflict-combat-zone-divorced killings.

On Thursday, March 8, 2012, during an unrelated press conference called by the Democratic leaders of the Senate to promote the unfinished Senate version of the reauthorized Surface Transportation Act, one reporter spoke up to ask Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid – the Democratic Boss of the in-the-dark, bystanding Senate – about the Attorney General’s speech, starting at 16:04 of this C-SPAN recording.

Senator Harry Reid expressing support for Attorney General Holder's 3/5/12 speech

Reporter questions Senator Reid 3/8/12, about 3/5 AG Holder speech, at 16:04

My transcription of the reporter’s superb question, and the answer of shameless presidential yes-man Harry Reid of Nevada:

Unidentified Male Reporter (@ 16:04): “Senator Reid?”

Senator Harry Reid: “Yes.”

Reporter: “A non-transportation question, if I might. What did you make of, or what was your reaction to the Attorney General’s speech earlier – to his, his statement that the Authorization for Use of Force that Congress passed [seven(? sic)] years ago justifies the targeting and killing of American citizens overseas who are deemed terrorists, and that due process is not necessarily judicial process?”

Senator Harry Reid (@ 16:32): “I have not studied the decision – the opinion – that he wrote, but in substance I support it 100%.”


Update, 3/12/12:

  • Jeremy Scahill caught this follow-up performance by Senator Reid on Sunday, March 11th, during Reid’s interview with Candy Crowley on her CNN show “State of the Union” (the full interview tape is here, the full transcript here):Jeremy Scahill tweet about Harry Reid interview 3/11/2012 re 16-year-old Al-AwlakiAbdulrahman Al-Awlaki was the teenage son of New Mexico-born Anwar Al-Awlaki, who, with his family, returned to live in Sana’a, Yemen in 2002. The U.S. government killed Abdulrahman in Yemen (along with his teenage cousin, and six others) for being “in the wrong place at the wrong time” – an anonymous “U.S. official” told TIME (or, in the words of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid 3/11/12, for being a “terrorist” who “deserved to be killed”) – with an evening U.S. military-operated drone strike on October 14, 2011, two weeks after Abdulrahman’s father was killed (with three others) on September 30, 2011, also in Yemen, by American missiles that targeted and struck their vehicle(s). [The missiles that killed Anwar Al-Awlaki and three men near him (including Samir Khan, another American citizen) on September 30 were reportedly fired by a drone that was operated by the CIA, and by a U.S. military jet.]
    The 16-year-old son of Anwar Al-Awlaki, who was killed in 2011, two weeks after his father

    16-year-old Denver-born Abdulrahman Al-Awlaki, killed by the U.S. in Yemen on 10/14/2011, two weeks after U.S. missiles killed his father, U.S. citizen Anwar Al-Awlaki

    The transcript of the Sunday exchange that Scahill witnessed:


    Interview With Harry Reid; Interview With Dick Gephardt, Steve Forbes

    Aired March 11, 2012 – 09:00 ET



    CROWLEY: Right. Let me ask you something about — something the attorney general said recently. He was giving a speech to Northwestern University Law School. And he was suggesting — he said, you know, people are arguing that for some reason the president needs to get permission from a federal court before taking action against a U.S. citizen overseas who’s an operational leader [says who, Candy?? – pow wow] in al Qaeda.

    He says that’s just not accurate. That due process and judicial process are not one and the same. Do you have — and this is creating quite a stir. Do you have any problem with that? Do you understand what that means exactly? [Two different questions, so it’s unclear which one Reid’s first response was answering… – pow wow]

    REID: No, I don’t. But I do know this. The non — the American citizens who have been killed overseas who are terrorists, and, frankly, if anyone in the world deserved to be killed, those three did deserve to be killed.

    CROWLEY: And these were the three [U.S. citizens – Al-Awlaki father and son, plus one of the men killed with Anwar Al-Awlaki on 9/30/11 – pow wow] that were killed in Yemen. And I understand that. But just — are you slightly uncomfortable with the idea that the United States president, whoever it may be, can decide that this or that U.S. citizen living abroad is a threat to national security and kill them?

    REID: Well, I don’t know what the attorney general meant by saying that. I’d have to study it a little bit. I’ve never heard that term [? – pow wow] before. But I think the process is in play. I think it’s one that I think we can live with. And I think with the international war on terror that’s going on now, we’re going to have to make sure that we have the tools to get some of these people who are very bad [says who, Harry Reid?? – pow wow] and comply with American law.

    CROWLEY: And you think that the president should be able to make that decision in conjunction with the folks in the administration without going to a court, without going to you all, anything?

    REID: There is a war going on. There’s no question about that. He’s the commander-in-chief. And there has been guidelines set. And if he follows those [how will you know if he does, or if he doesn’t, “follow” those top-secret, internal “guidelines,” Harry Reid? – pow wow], I think he should be able to do it.

    CROWLEY: Senator Harry Reid, majority leader in the U.S. Senate, come back and see us again. Thank you so much.

    REID: You’re sure welcome, Candy.


(3/14) See also: U.S. Targeted Killings: Official Confusion

(4/21) And see the April 14 report “Drone death in Yemen of an American teenager” by Toronto Star National Security Reporter Michelle Shephard, which includes portions of an interview in Yemen with Nasser Al-Awlaki, the father of Anwar Al-Awlaki and grandfather of Abdulrahman Al-Awlaki: Read the rest of this entry »

Permanent link to this article: http://debatingchambers.com/292_for-the-record-senator-harry-reid-100-percent-supports-ag-holder-march-5-speech

For The Record: Senator Dan Coats Condemns Abusive Party Throttling of the Senate’s Floor Amendment Process

Senator Dan Coats of Indiana, speaking in the Senate Chamber on Wednesday, February 15, 2012, shortly after Majority-Party Leader Harry Reid once again “filled the tree” (to prevent the offering of – and votes on – floor amendments in the Senate Chamber) on an important, complex (multi-committee) piece of legislation just made pending before the Senate (the Surface Transportation Act reauthorization, or highway bill, S. 1813); so far Harry Reid has twice “filled the tree” on this bill, after the Senate agreed to the motion to proceed to the legislation on 2/9 in advance of another long Senate weekend – thus, on 2/15, the Senate was finally reconvened and ready to address the newly-pending legislation, when Reid first moved to block floor amendments, and Coats then made these remarks:

Mr. COATS. Madam President, I come to the floor today frustrated, as many of us are, that once again we are not able to address legislation in the way the Senate is designed to address it, which is to debate, to discuss, to offer amendments, and to vote. Once again the majority leader has decided he didn’t like some of the proposed amendments and, therefore, is trying to shut off all opportunity to provide amendments. We are allowed to come down and give our little speeches, but there is no debate, there is no back and forth, there is no record of where we stand on certain issues except for final passage. I think the American people want more than that. That is not why they sent us here.

This is my second time in the Senate, with a 12-year gap in between my terms, and a lot of people ask me what has changed since my first time here. I say one thing that has dramatically changed–and which didn’t happen my first time in the Senate–is that we used to be able to come to the floor and essentially offer any amendment at any time to any bill. That is the difference between Senate procedure and the rules in the House of Representatives. We don’t have a Rules Committee that dictates which amendments can be offered and which ones can’t. This is supposed to be a body where we have an open discussion, where any Member can offer any amendment to any bill at any time. So in my first 10 years, that is what we did. It made for long nights, it made for long days, but we were performing the function our Founding Fathers designed for this body to fulfill.

Somehow it worked out. We went on record. Our yea was yea, and our nay was nay, and it was all there for the public to see. The amendments that were offered, the debate that took place, and the vote that was conducted were all there. Then we went home and explained why we voted yes or why we voted no. But the public had full transparency.

Today, and in this period of time–and I have just been here a year and a month in my second stint in the Senate–it is very seldom we have that opportunity.

Once again, on the highway bill, which affects every American in every State, we have finally gotten to the real thing. Our side has put up some amendments, and the majority has looked at them and said: No, we don’t want our Members to have to vote on those, so we [that is, Majority Leader Reid, in collusion with his Caucus] will use a procedure called “filling the tree.”
Read the rest of this entry »

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Launching, 3..2..1..: Citizens As “Enemy Combatants”

Since posting my last on-line diary preceding this one, in October, 2011 (as reposted just below this diary on the Home Page), some crucial developments and milestones in the American courts and Congress have transpired, that are deserving of all the attention we can give them. Thankfully, many others were on the case, speaking and writing with conviction and passion to anyone who would listen – which, predictably, didn’t include most of our incumbent elected representatives. As I catch up on some of the on-line contributions I missed over the last 3-4 months, and take the helm of the new DebatingChambers site, I plan to update this launch-post (or a subsequent post) with links to some of that important commentary and analysis. Meanwhile, in this post I’ll try to highlight the path down which recent inhumane actions of public officeholders in our Congress and federal judiciary are taking us, with help from the far-reaching perspective provided by an important new piece of habeas corpus scholarship.

Last month, of course, saw the tolling [the link is to a powerful and insightful piece in the National Law Journal by U.S. Army Major Todd Pierce, of the DOD’s OMC/Office of Chief Defense Counsel] of the disgraceful tenth anniversary, on January 11, 2012, of the opening of an American military prison in Cuba, that was deliberately designed (obviously, very successfully) to evade both the restrictions of domestic American law and any restrictions nominally imposed by the “law of nations” and its subsidiary “law of war,” on the treatment and disposition of its prisoners. While the month before that, there was, and is, the Buck McKeon/Carl Levin National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of 2012, now Public Law 112-81, after President Obama signed it into law on December 31, 2011 [in text or pdf format, when the law is available at the GPOffice, which it [now, on 3/30/12] is not at this time, in either format; meanwhile see this link for the final bill text].

In particular, there’s the section of that mammoth piece of NDAA legislation entitled “Detainee Matters” – in Subtitle D of Title X of Division A of the version that first passed the Senate 93-7 on 12/1/2011 – which was adopted, in final Conference Report form, 283-186 in the House on December 14th, and 86-13 in the Senate on December 15th. [Though the House/Senate conference report had only been issued on December 12th, five days after the House conferees had been appointed on 12/7 (Senate conferees were appointed on 12/1).]

Here’s how the Congressional Research Service summarized the version of the language that 93 incumbent Senators voted to adopt on 12/1, in Carl Levin’s Senate version of the bill, S. 1867 (which came out of the Senate Armed Services Committee that Levin chairs, on 11/15/11, without a written report – after being marked-up by the Committee in closed session last June); see also H.R. 1540, and earlier CRS summaries of the legislation [my emphasis and bracketed/indented comments]:

Subtitle D: Detainee Matters

(Sec. 1031) Affirms that the authority of the President to use all necessary and appropriate force pursuant to the [2001 (Public Law 107-40)] Authorization for Use of Military Force includes the authority for U.S. Armed Forces to detain [somewhere] covered persons pending disposition under the law of war. Defines a “covered person” as a person who: (1) planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks on the United States of September 11, 2001, or harbored those responsible for such attacks; or (2) was part of or substantially supported al Qaeda, the Taliban, or [unspecified] associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its [unspecified] coalition partners. Requires the Secretary to regularly brief Congress on the application of such authority.

  • Back on November 1, 2011, Steve Vladeck described this section very well, writing: “In one fell swoop, the NDAA thereby severs the requirement that detention be tied to a group’s responsibility for the September 11 attacks; overrides international law by authorizing detention of individuals who may have never committed a belligerent act; and effectively converts our conflict against those responsible for September 11 into a worldwide military operation against a breathtaking array of terrorist groups engaged in hostilities against virtually any of our allies.”  (Just as the Executive Branch has been advocating in Guantanamo habeas cases for years, with the full-throated support of a radical D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals – the only lower appellate court to which they must answer in these cases; no “circuit splits” possible. This profoundly-consequential  decision was made after exactly how many open, public – or even “closed” – hearings were convened, about the new, unbounded 2011 NDAA-AUMF, by the Senate Armed Services Committee, or by any other Senate committee of jurisdiction??) – pow wow

(Sec. 1032) Requires U.S. Armed Forces to hold in custody [somewhere…] pending disposition a person who was [according to whom…?? That‘s where the whole problem began and begins, with Army Regulation 190-8** having been shredded by 2002 presidential decree (see Comment 9)… – pow wow] a member or part of al Qaeda or an [unspecified] associated force and participated in planning or carrying out an attack or attempted attack against the United States or its [unspecified] coalition partners. Authorizes the Secretary to waive such requirement in the national security interest. Makes such requirement inapplicable to U.S. citizens or U.S. lawful resident aliens. Outlines implementation procedures.

  • **Army Regulation 190-8, in part: “b. A competent tribunal shall determine the status of any person not appearing to be entitled to prisoner of war status who has committed a belligerent act or has engaged in hostile activities in aid of enemy armed forces, and who asserts that he or she is entitled to treatment as a prisoner of war, or concerning whom any doubt of a like nature exists.” This regulation implements, in practice, for the U.S. military (or did, until breached by decree of President Bush in 2002), a specific, legitimate source of “law of war” authority under the U.S. Constitution: i.e., Article 5 of the Senate-ratified 1949 Geneva Convention relative to the treatment of POWs (Convention III). In the same way, the Uniform Code of Military Justice enacted by Congress – in place of the Articles of War – implements, in practice, many of the other legitimate sources of law-of-nations/“law-of-war” authority that empowers government actors, under the ratified (and thus supreme U.S. law) 1949 Geneva Convention treaties. – pow wow

(Sec. 1033) Prohibits FY2012 DOD funds from being used to transfer any individual detained at Naval Station, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba (Guantanamo) to the custody or control of that individual’s country of origin, other foreign country, or foreign entity unless the Secretary [of Defense] makes a specified certification to Congress, including that the transferee country or entity is not a state sponsor of terrorism or terrorist organization and has agreed to ensure that the individual cannot take action to threaten the United States or its citizens or allies in the future. Prohibits any such transfer if there is a confirmed case of an individual who was transferred to a foreign country and subsequently engaged in terrorist activity. Authorizes the waiver of such prohibition in the national security interest.

(Sec. 1034) Prohibits FY2012 funds from being used to construct or modify any facility in the United States or its territories or possessions to house any individual detained at Guantanamo for purposes of detention or imprisonment by DOD, unless authorized by Congress. Provides an exception.

(Sec. 1035) Directs the Secretary to submit to the defense and intelligence committees procedures for implementing the periodic Guantanamo detainee review process required under Executive Order.

  • Which procedures, however, as the enacted law now states in black and white, “shall” “(1) clarify that the purpose of the periodic review process is not to determine the legality of any detainee’s law of war detention, but to make discretionary determinations whether or not a detainee represents a continuing threat to the security of the United States;” (Just possibly because it’s pretty much by definition a war crime – a “grave breach” of the Geneva Conventions – for the U.S. to have shipped non-combatants to Guantanamo…; we begin now to see why a colluding Congress will only discuss these matters behind closed doors.) – pow wow
    [See the Implementing Guidelines PDF released in early May, 2012.]

(Sec. 1036) Directs the Secretary to submit to such committees: (1) procedures for determining the status of [the already-deemed (somehow…, still without benefit of AR 190-8 minimal due process, in open defiance of the unenforced “law of war” language) unprivileged enemy belligerent] persons detained pursuant to the Authorization for Use of Military Force, and (2) any modifications to such procedures.

  • “…for purposes of section 1031.” Meaning that this section also covers military prisoners beyond Guantanamo (at our off-shore Devil’s Islands).  But see this mile-wide exception that swallows the rule for the entire prison population of Guantanamo, as passed into law in the final version of H.R. 1540 (Section 1024): “(c) Applicability- The Secretary of Defense is not required to apply the procedures required by this section in the case of a person for whom habeas corpus review is available in a Federal court.”  An exception that – thanks to the 2008 Anthony Kennedy-authored Boumediene decision, which belatedly began to police the separation of powers – now encompasses all Guantanamo prisoner “persons.”  [If only nominally so, due to the D.C. Circuit’s deliberate undermining of Boumediene’s habeas provisions, in its ongoing effort to replace the presumption of innocence for the accused, with the “presumption of regularity” for the assertions of government-agent accusers.]  This Guantanamo exception does not appear to have been included in the version of the law passed by the Senate on December 1, 2011. – pow wow
  • (4/22 Update) On April 5, 2012, as Daphne Eviatar of Human Rights First noted in an April 18th analysis, “[T]he Defense Department quietly sent a report to Congress indicating how it intends to implement” this section (Sec. 1024) of the 2012 NDAA, for non-Guantanamo prisoners in U.S. military custody. As Daphne’s post indicates, under the new DOD regulation (and in stark contrast and conflict with still-on-the-books Army Regulation 190-8), the first status determination review by a military judge will be permitted to be postponed for three years after the foreign prisoner comes, unimpeded by lack of lawful due process/review or authority, into U.S. military custody. This military judge “review” is a crude Executive Branch-operated approximation of the ongoing, glacially-slow, government-burden-shifting Guantanamo habeas corpus hearing process in the D.C. District & Circuit federal courts – which was finally instituted and conducted as a mistake-remedying solution years after the established fact of military incarceration of foreigners who’d been denied due process and the law-of-war’s default POW status and treatment.  Thus the new DOD NDAA regulation will, in practice, ask a U.S. military judge to decide whether or not he must reverse a decision previously made by a U.S. military commander, and order a foreign citizen released after three years of non-POW detention in a U.S. military prison, in this case because belatedly determined not to be detainable under the terms of Section 1021 of the 2012 NDAA (Sec. 1031 of the Senate bill). [With “international law” and all that jazz, including Third Geneva Convention Article 5’s due process requirements and default POW treatment of military prisoners until a neutral status determination/review is made, having been dispensed with by the U.S. Congress & President (implicitly by the former, explicitly by the latter, beginning with President G.W. Bush).]  As Daphne concludes: “The Obama administration had an opportunity to make clear that it takes due process rights and international law seriously [unlike the U.S. Congress], and that, as the war in Afghanistan winds down, it plans to bring indefinite military detention without meaningful review, charge, or trial to an end. It just passed up that opportunity.” – pow wow

(Sec. 1037) Allows a guilty plea as part of a pre-trial agreement in capital offense trials by military commission.

These are the seven incumbent Senators who resisted peer pressure, heeded their consciences, and honored the Constitution by voting No on passage of the above language in S. 1867 on 12/1/2011 (the same seven, joined by six more Senators, also voted No 12/15 on the final Conference Report version):

Tom Coburn (R-OK), Tom Harkin (D-IA), Mike Lee (R-UT), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Rand Paul (R-KY),  Bernie Sanders (I-VT), & Ron Wyden (D-OR).

Having been left to his own devices by his Caucus colleagues, and with oversight of the Armed Services a thing of the past in his committee, Carl Levin’s made the most of it, quickly picking up where he and the Senate left off last spring, in refusing to respect or honor the Constitutionally-mandated process for taking this nation to war. And, before that, in sneaking the Military Commissions Act of 2009 through in the huge FY 2010 Defense Authorization Act (which first passed the Senate, as S. 1391, by a vote of 87-7, and prompted my first FDL reader-diary, in July, 2009, entitled “Senators who lie, Senators who let them”). Two years later, and still the vast majority of incumbent United States Senators, perhaps especially those who share Levin’s Party membership, are incapable of challenging, or are too cowardly to challenge, Levin’s misrepresentations and calculating, back-room sleights-of-hand about domestic and international law – as he, with partners from both Parties, continues to use the power of his legislative office to steadily institutionalize an ever more-powerful, unchecked, and unaccountable presidency.

Very much related to the new, D.C. Circuit-parroting provisions of the 2012 NDAA legislation is the following excerpt (which I trust is within fair use limits, because of the comprehensive length of the original), from an extremely valuable and timely 117-page review of the origins and implementation of the writ of habeas corpus, and its two suspensions, in this nation, which was just published by the Harvard Law Review. It’s an impressive example of the sort of scholarship that should have preceded, but obviously didn’t, the evidently-rushed, end-of-term 2004 Supreme Court opinion in Hamdi (an opinion cited repeatedly by Levin – see below – to justify his NDAA detainee provisions), which makes excellent use of the available accounts of contemporaneous Congressional debates. [Hamdi’s oral argument audio is here; in this diary I transcribed a key portion of that argument.] Read the rest of this entry »

Permanent link to this article: http://debatingchambers.com/1_launching-3-2-1-citizens-as-enemy-combatants

Senate Democrats Overturn Parliamentarian & Precedent (Oct. 6th) To Impede Floor Amending & Further Entrench Supermajority Cloture

As originally posted in the reader-diary section of Firedoglake.com; the post’s 2011 comment thread is available at that link. [On January 31, 2012, long-time Senate Parliamentarian Alan S. Frumin retired. Frumin had served in that position since 1987, except for six years (1995-2001) when Robert Dove was reappointed Senate Parliamentarian. One month after Frumin’s retirement, House Parliamentarian John V. Sullivan announced his retirement, effective March 31, 2012.]

Compounding a track record of irresponsible and dishonorable conduct, and historic levels of public disapproval, there’s a disturbing trend accelerating in the Senate, which is further centralizing the power of our representatives in the hands of the few among them who control the two private, hierarchical, corporate-profit-funded Party organizations. A trend that is evidently designed to enable Party bosses to increasingly dictate, in private, the details and the outcome of all important legislation in the Senate.

Those, now led by Harry Reid, who wield that top-heavy power – courtesy of the public and private abdication of their Senatorial responsibilities by Party Caucus members – are working hard to further consolidate the power that Senators have already ceded to them to shut down, at will, the daily floor business of the Senate. [Via, in particular, the unchallenged – as out of order – “Fake Quorum Call” that functionally recesses the “in session” Senate each and every day (facilitating the routine replacement of the Senate’s default simple-majority regular order with the Party-preferred, optional supermajority Rule 22 cloture order), in addition to the unanimous daily agreement to “deem expired” the “Morning Hour.”]

Whether through the months of White House-instigated backroom wheeling and dealing between a select few Party members on the debt ceiling and national budget (while the Senate Budget Committee, under Democratic control, was deliberately idled), or in the secretly-conducted (“closed”) multi-day markup of the far-reaching National Defense Authorization bill (2012 NDAA) in Carl Levin’s Armed Services Committee this year, or in the Harry Reid-conceived undemocratic Joint Select Super Committee (which hasn’t held a public business meeting since its first brief organizational meeting on September 8th), most Senators, under Democratic Party control, seem focused on one primary objective: to remain out of public view and off the public record while they help their Party leadership to do the dirty work of their campaign contributors – which, in the case of the Reid-led Democrats (plus Bernie Sanders and Joseph Lieberman) at present, still means regularly taking dictation from the President. [Never mind all that pretty, abstract talk about the vital role of the “separation of powers” that Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia and Stephen Breyer waxed eloquent about before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday.]

The more despised these tactics become, the more the Senate Democrats, under Reid, seem to double down on their backroom behavior and its practiced deceit, and on their public efforts to avoid accountability, including by blocking so-called “tough” votes by abusing the powerful motion “to table” – which allows them to cast roll call votes, with no debate, to kill a measure without formally considering it on its merits, pro or con. [10/31 addition for the record: Even as the members of the Joint Select Super Committee (linked site removed by 2/2012) disgracefully continue to ‘gather’ in private for off-the-record ‘conversations’ – while refusing to convene any public meetings or to engage in any public deliberation since the committee’s first and only public meeting on 9/8 (which preceded several limited public “hearings”) – sometime between October 7 and October 21, 2011, the Joint Committee abruptly changed, apparently without notice, the domain name of its official website, and fails even to refer traffic that finds its brand-new but already-defunct original website (linked site subsequently removed by 2/2012) to the current site (unchanged except for the site’s name; and, by 2/2012, also removed entirely).]

Knowing that the media (similarly driven by a corporate profit-focused agenda) and Party-aligned writers and bloggers are unlikely to accurately explain, undistorted by self-serving Party spin, the latest ugly example of this undemocratic, power-centralizing trend in the Senate, this is my Senate-aligned, as opposed to Party-aligned, account of the overturning of existing Senate precedent (related to a rarely-invoked motion to suspend the rules) that I watched Senate Democrats quickly fall into line to support yesterday evening, October 6, 2011 – a vote, held without any public debate, that those Senators voluntarily cast to reduce their own power as individual Senators to publicly create and revise federal legislation on the Senate floor in future.

I happened to tune in C-SPAN2 Thursday evening at about 6:44 p.m. Eastern, to see what further damage the Senate had managed to do this week (to their institution, if not to their country), knowing that, as usual (and despite having just returned from a week off), by then Senators would be attempting to flee D.C. for their long weekend (made longer this weekend by Yom Kippur and Columbus Day).

I’d earlier heard, via C-SPAN, that President Obama had summoned his Democratic Senate subjects (Harry Reid, Dick Durbin, Chuck Schumer, and Patty Murray) to the White House for a 5:30 p.m. meeting yesterday, presumably to review presidential re-election campaign strategy as it relates to legislation written and ordered to pass the Senate by the White House (see: the American Jobs Act, whose Reid-revised text, filed as S. 1660, is not yet available at the Government Printing Office, though the Senate will be voting on a cloture motion to proceed to the bill Tuesday evening, as arranged just before the Senate adjourned for the weekend at 10:00 p.m. Thursday). So I expected that I might see Harry Reid attempting to obediently execute the President’s will on the Senate floor, post-meeting.

When I tuned in, a vote was in progress, but C-SPAN was unable to describe the vote beyond the fact that it was a “procedural vote” on the pending currency “misalignment” bill (aimed at China, and written/sponsored by Chuck Schumer, Sherrod Brown and Lindsey Graham). Given the bill’s posture (post-cloture, after a Democratic cloture motion had passed, with 62 votes, earlier in the day), a vote to require the attendance of Senators, because (as usual) a Constitutional quorum was not present in the Chamber, seemed the most logical explanation for the roll call. Except that the Party-line vote was the reverse of the typical attendance vote (Republicans were voting Aye, Democrats were voting No).

I waited and watched, and soon noticed that some serious Democratic arm-twisting was taking place in the well of the Chamber. The reason for that arm-twisting became quite clear, when the vote concluded at 7:22 p.m., and (as soon as Democrats Reid, Udall of NM, Durbin and others stopped blocking them by refusing consent to lift a Reid-imposed Fake Quorum Call) a couple of Republican Senators (Bob Corker of TN and Roger Wicker of MS) thankfully stood up to challenge and protest with integrity what had just taken place (their facial expressions and tones of voice speaking volumes).

Here’s Senator Corker:

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Tennessee.

Mr. CORKER. Mr. President, thank you for recognizing me.

I really do not want to speak. Here is what I want to happen. I think Members on both sides of the aisle believe this institution has degraded into a place that is no longer a place of any deliberation at all. I would like for you [meaning Harry Reid] and the minority leader to explain to us so that we have one story here in public as to what has happened this week to lead us to the place that we are. That is all I am asking. That is all I want to know. Explain how the greatest deliberative body, on a bill that many would say was a messaging bill in the first place, ended up having no amendments, and we are in this place that we are right now. I would just like to understand that.

Here’s Senator Wicker: Read the rest of this entry »

Permanent link to this article: http://debatingchambers.com/275_senate-democrats-overturn-parliamentarian-and-precedent-to-impede-floor-amending-and-further-entrench-supermajority-cloture

Former Rep. Mickey Edwards and Incumbent Sen. Mike Lee: Have Confidence In The People; Don’t Fear & Bypass Their Congress

As originally posted in the reader-diary section of Firedoglake.com; the post’s 2011 comment thread is available at that link.

A former member of the United States House of Representatives:

On the day I was sworn in as a member of Congress, all of us “newbies”—including Al Gore, Dick Gephardt, Dan Quayle, David Stockman, and Jim Leach—were a single band. But moments after taking the oath of office, we were divided into rival teams: first came the vote to elect a new speaker, then to adopt House rules written by the majority, then to consider the membership of committees, with party ratios decided by the majority. From that moment on, during the 16 years I served in Congress, and every day since my last term ended, I have seen the United States Congress as it actually functions, not as a gathering of America’s chosen leaders to confront, together, the problems we face, but as competing armies—on the floor, in committees, in subcommittees—determined to dominate or destroy.

Sound familiar?

United States Capitol photo by wallyg at flickr.com

The U.S. Capitol, seat of our Legislative Branch of government

That’s Mickey Edwards of Oklahama speaking, a Republican with experience in Party leadership, who left Congress in 1993. He’s done us a great service by honestly recounting his insider experiences in Congress – something we too-rarely see – to try to bring genuine reform to that institution. Edwards is perceptively and courageously focusing, of necessity, on ending the money-driven Party vs. Party wars that have been allowed to overrun the place. As ‘cmaukonen’ first noted here, Edwards has just written a piece for The Atlantic, that I highly recommend, entitled How to Turn Republicans and Democrats Into Americans; An insider’s six-step plan to fix Congress, from which the above excerpt is taken.

Those who are concerned about our increasingly-unchecked presidency would do well to consider one major benefit of diluting the power of Party in Congress as advocated by Edwards: Read the rest of this entry »

Permanent link to this article: http://debatingchambers.com/120_former-rep-mickey-edwards-sen-mike-lee-have-confidence-in-the-people-do-not-fear-bypass-their-congress

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