Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Did antiwar.com Just Get Pwned?

Or am I just way, way too paranoid? The lead photo story at antiwar.com today describes Iraqi forces killing young children:

Simper said the boys being held in the prison were as young as 6 years old. The two boys who were killed were in their midteens, he said.
My first reaction, quite naturally, was one of horror. This is a VERY emotional issue - young children sacrificed on the alter of war!!! But something seems a little bit strange about this story...
American investigators probing allegations of torture at an Iraqi-run juvenile prison in Baghdad found clear evidence earlier this year that Sunni children had been murdered by their Shiite captors, according to a lead officer on the investigative team.
"The security detail came in literally as they were cleaning the blood from the floor - they had just killed two Sunni kids," said Lt. Col. Craig J. Simper, a Judge Advocate General Corps officer from the Utah-based 419th Fighter Wing, who helped arrange the inspection. "The explanation was that these guys were trying to escape, but our investigation concluded that they were actually scheduled for release."
From experience reading such news stories from Iraq, anything with an "earlier this year" timestamp has usually been sitting in cold freeze, awaiting the right PR release date. And just who exactly is this Craig Simper, on whose testimony the whole story seems to hang? Here's a picture of him from a US military website:

And this is from the accompanying story last week:
A reservist from the 419th Fighter Wing returned earlier this summer from a six-month deployment to Baghdad where he worked to bring law and order to the struggling nation.

"The Iraqi judicial and legal systems were mostly defunct and still suffer from elements of corruption" said Lt. Col. Craig Simper, wing judge advocate general.

While in Iraq, Colonel Simper served as the assistant director for a multi-national team charged with investigating major terror and corruption-related crimes within the Iraqi government.

Known as the Law and Order Task Force, the team was made up of U.S. attorneys and investigators as well as Iraqi police and interpreters. The task force investigated murder, extortion and kidnapping cases.

In one noteworthy case, the task force secured arrest warrants against top leaders of the Mahdi Army in Sadr City for the abduction of five British contractors last year.

In another, the task force conducted a politically sensitive inquiry into a juvenile detention facility suspected of operating a torture cell.

The task force routinely traveled "outside the wire" to collect evidence and interview witnesses. Small arms fire, and rocket and mortar launches were commonplace.

Colonel Simper received the Bronze Star for his service with the task force.
Hmmn. I smell a rat. Sorry, but I do.

Iraqi PM Al-Maliki has just defied the USA to call for fixed withdrawal dates (now, of course, it's being reported that he never meant any such thing). And of course it is only pressure from Moqtada Al-Sadr's Mehdi Army which would even make him say such things (if he said them, which of course he did not: the BBC just told you that). And Colonel Craig Simper just happens to have been in active duty against the Mehdi Army. With the highly reputable and totally un-politicized Dept. of Justice no less!

Now, what if Al-Maliki's days are numbered and the USA is looking for an excuse to topple him with an Iraqi military coup?

I did a bit of Teh Google and found this old Daily Kos post from 2004, when Craig Simper was just a Utah State Counsel with a close interest in political bloggers. It was just a month before the 2004 presidential election, and Simper was in damage control mode. Hunter from Kos links to a story from Wired:
Utah State Counsel Craig Simper, who has been monitoring Hailey's situation for the university, was struck by leaps to conspiracy theories and assumptions that a downed server meant Hailey was being fired.

"One of the bloggers claimed it's not the crime; it's the cover-up. This conspiratorial mentality is absolutely scary. It's incredible," Simper said, adding, "It's very chilling."

Simper said the university may suggest researchers posting work, particularly in controversial areas, change some procedures, such as clarifying when materials are in draft form.

Simper also was concerned about suggestions -- accompanied by phone numbers -- that university personnel be contacted at home.

"Just because you can get this information it shouldn't be widely published," he said.
Hunter's conclusions:
For our part, we will refrain from judgment [sic] on whether or not the change of language and subsequent retractions posted on Wizbang were heartfelt, or prompted by contacts with attorneys from Utah State. It would seem, if nothing else, that what was heralded less than a week ago as a right-wing journalistic revolution has been pulled up abruptly. At least, this once.
Hmmmnnnn......... For over five years, the USA has been covering up such stories of Iraqi government atrocities (even when the former PM shot prisoners dead in cold blood). Now suddenly they want us to know about it?

Am I the only one who smells a fish?

UPDATE: The Salt Lake Tribune follows up with an anonymous US official in Iraq making some pretty unconvincing denials. There's no evidence of concern for the kids, he just wants to ensure that the blame is on the Iraqi police, not the US officials involved with running the detention center.