Rick Perry for Vice-President? Oh my! That probably has less a chance of happening than Perry…oh never mind, it wont happen…will it? Perry has repeatedly said he’s not interested in the No. 2 slot on a presidential ticket, but he didn’t quite throw a bucket of warm spit on the idea of a Gingrich-Perry team. Fox News suggested over the weekend that “preliminary ‘what-if’ conversations are underway that could lead to a Gingrich-Perry ticket being announced prior to the Republican National Convention at the end of August.” Oh, the humanity!
The idea was lofted ahead of the Alabama and Mississippi contests, which are important to Gingrich’s campaign. It got some attention even though Perry abandoned his presidential effort in January after a series of stumbles, and Gingrich’s campaign is currently lagging. Perry endorsed Gingrich when he left the presidential race, but the former U.S. House speaker is behind Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum with 14.4 percent support in a national poll.
Gingrich spokesman R.C. Hammond said Monday there have been no such talks between Gingrich and Perry, adding that “we’re not at that point of the campaign.” “In the Gingrich campaign, there is a tremendous amount of admiration for Gov. Rick Perry …. His endorsement in South Carolina will forever mean the world to us,” Hammond said. While the campaign’s not at that point, he added, “Certainly that doesn’t mean we at some point down the road wouldn’t put Gov. Perry on that list. … We certainly think he’s a tremendous asset to the party, to our campaign, and to the state of Texas.”
Perry spokeswoman Catherine Frazier said in a statement, “Gov. Perry thinks Newt Gingrich is the strongest conservative to debate and defeat President Obama and truly overhaul Washington. The speculation is humbling but premature.” Perry previously rejected the idea of being anyone’s vice presidential pick in stronger terms, saying last summerbefore he announced his own White House bid, “John Nance Garner had a pretty good handle on that.” Garner, a Texan who was Franklin D. Roosevelt’s vice president in 1933-41, is known for saying that the vice presidency was “not worth a bucket of warm spit.” Neither is Rick Perry actually and for Perry to be viable as a V.P. candidate, wouldn’t Gingrich have to have a snowballs chance of getting the nomination?
On another note from the G.O.P. trail, Rick Santorum has a new and catchy campaign tune:
The singer/songwriter sisters Haley and Camille Harris are definitely doing their best to build enthusiasm for the former Pennsylvania senator with their new and extremely catchy song “Game On,” which they posted on YouTube on Tuesday. If it doesn’t encourage voters to put Santorum on the ballot, nothing will. The Harris sisters who also call themselves “First Love,” are from Oklahoma, where Santorum won by a clear margin on Tuesday. Judging by the song, there is still plenty of optimism for the candidacy of the prominent social conservative. ”There is hope for our nation again” and “We believe Rick Santorum is our man,” is the chorus of the pop/country song, followed by the sister mentioning Ronald Reagan, justice for the unborn, factories back on our shores and the U.S. Constitution ruling our land.
The catchy title is inspired by the speech Santorum gave after the Iowa caucuses, where “game on” was his opening line. Santorum himself have thanked the family for their support, writing on Twitter: “Wow! I love this #GameOn song and video! Thank you Harris Family from Oklahoma!” The “Game On” music video was uploaded to YouTube on Tuesday. Thursday afternoon, the video had been viewed almost 73,000 times. The music video can be seen underneath, but a warning is needed: Do you not want to be singing that Rick Santorum is you man for the rest of the day? Then you might not want to click play, because once you do this is going to be stuck in your head for the rest of the day.
Santorum predicted Monday that he would get the Republican presidential nomination if the race remains undecided by the time the party holds its nominating convention this summer. Though former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has a commanding lead in the crucial race for delegates, Santorum said the race is about to enter a period where he will face fewer disadvantages. To date, Romney has outspent Santorum and had stronger campaign organizations working for him.
This is the third installment of a series of stories about Kerry Max Cook’s chase for justice in Smith County, Texas. It’s hard to wrap my brain around what Kerry is going through or just how deep the corruption runs in Tyler, Texas. I have perused the motions Cook’s attorneys have made asking for testing of DNA evidence and the recusal of the judge who was Cook’s prosecutor so many years ago. I have read Kerry’s book, Chasing Justice, and I have read the book Smith County Justice via Wikileaks.
It seems that justice should be bent on finding the truth, prosecuting criminals and punishing offenders not winning at any cost and prosecuting and re-prosecuting people time and time and time again to save face. That’s exactly what has happened in Smith County again and again and again. The Tyler newspaper is obviously in cohesion with the corrupt justice and law enforcement system in Smith County. A story which appeared March 2 was mostly skeptical about Cook’s filings, drawing primarily on one source, one of the men who prosecuted him. It appears that the reporter had not read the court filings. I have and so should you:
Prosecutors and investigators acknowledge the exculpatory nature of the DNA.
With respect to the significance and meaning of the DNA that was recovered from the panties Ms. Edwards was wearing when she was raped and murdered, the statements, acts and omissions of the investigators and prosecutors are instructive and revealing. First, as soon as the
semen was discovered in the panties Ms. Edwards was wearing the night she was raped and murdered, the prosecution immediately moved for a continuance pending the analysis performed by the DPS. In support of a continuance, the State argued as follows:
Depending on results from the semen detected in the exhibit submitted, there could be issues that could make a difference in the selection of jurors; and these íssues are extremely ímportant to the family of tlte victim, as well as the Defendant to ensure that the ends of justice are served. To be certain, the prosecution at once recognized the obvious significance of the newly discovered biological evidence. Recognizing the significance of the DNA evidence, even after Mr. Cook entered hìs plea agreement, the prosecution specifically instructed the Garland Crime
Laboratory to complete the DNA analysis. Furthermore, the State also informed the lab that it was considering whether to submit sømples from other individuøls for testing. It bears mention here that all of this occurred prior to confirmation that the semen belonged to Mr. Mayfield.
Following entry of the State’s plea agreement that averted the fourth capital murder trial, the prosecution was quoted as stating that the case against Mr. Cook was substantially weakened by the decision of the Criminal Court of Appeals to exclude the testimony of Robert Hoehn. That is, the prosecution had known for over Jifteen months that Mr. Hoehn’s testimony was unavailable. Other than the Court of Criminal Appeals’ 1996 opinion vacating Mr. Cook’s conviction, there were no other significant legal or factual developments prior to the discovery of
Consistent with its hard-charging prosecution of Mr. Cook, on February 12, 1999 the prosecution made the following “offers” to Mr. Cook’s defense team: (1) Mr. Cook pleads “no contest” to Ms. Edwards’murder, signs a stipulation of evidence and is found guilty; after which the State will recommend a forty year sentence with credit for time served; or (2) Mr. Cook pleads “no contest” to Ms. Edwards’ murder under an “open plea” anangement with the Court in which he would be found guilty of murder; after which the Judge could sentence Mr. Cook to less than forty years if he deems it appropriate.50 Notably, the prosecution’s offer was faxed to Mr. Cook’s counsel the day after Mr. Cook had submitted his blood for comparative DNA analysis and either prior to or contemporaneous with the analysis of Mr. Cook’s sample and the initiation of any comparison to the semen recovered from Ms. Edwards’ panties.
Four days later, on February 16, 1999, Mr. Cook’s counsel responded to the State’s “offers” as follows: Mr. Cook did not murder Linda Jo Edwards. He is innocent. He has proclaimed that innocence from his prison cell for the past twenty-one years. He will not agree to any resolution of this case that requires an admission of guilt and or a return to custody. Consequently, Mr. Cook rejects your offer that he plea ‘no contest’ in exchange for a forty year sentence.5l This response was hand-delivered to the prosecution by Mr. Cook’s defense counsel when the
parties appeared for the commencement of jury selection prior to what would have been Mr. Cook’s fourth trial. In response, and in a striking reversal of position, the State agreed to allow Mr. Cook to plead no contest and obtain his immediate freedom without any admission of guilt or
to A tme and correct copy of the State’s letter dated February 12, 1999 is attached hereto as Exhibit 13
” A true and correct copy of Ms. Vy’attley’s letter dated February 16, l99g is attached hereto as Exhibit 14.
wrongdoing. The following comparison of the stipulation offered by the State and that actually agreed to and entered by Mr. Cook is instructive:
It is critical to note that the plea agreement that Mr. Cook signed contains no admission of probable jury findings; but instead, merely sets forth the evidence the State would offer if the fourth trial proceeded. For Mr. Cook, anything to the contrary was a “deal-breaker” and Mr. Cook informed his counsel that he would rather take his chances and proceed with a fourth trial and the possibility of being convicted, sentenced to death and executed than admit to a crime he didn’t commit. The prosecution has continually stated that based on the Court of Criminal Appeals’
opinion, it had no choice but to agree to this unprecedented plea agreement; but that opinion, and the resulting loss of Hoehn’s testimony, occurred nearly a yeff and a half prior to the plea agreement. Put another way, the loss of Hoehn’s testimony was old news by the time Mr.
Cook’s fourth trial was set to commence and when the prosecution agreed to the plea agreement analyzed herein. Also notable is the fact the prosecution knew it could not use Hoehn’s testimony at the time it made its hard-line offer of forty years in prison. Only an intervening event of substantial magnitude could have caused such a seismic shift in the prosecution’s strategy.
Based on statements made by the District Attorney, what likely occurred between February 12 and February 16,1999 is that an initial analysis was performed on Mr. Cook’s blood sample for purposes of comparison to the semen stain on Ms. Edwards’ clothing, which had only been provided the day before the prosecution’s offer to Mr. Cook of 40 years in prison. And in hindsight it is apparent that this initial analysis excluded Mr. Cook as the individual that raped and murdered Ms. Edwards. Just after Mr. Cook entered his no-contest plea, a local newspaper reported that, “[t]esting continues on a recently discovered semen stain on the dead woman’s underwear, søid Skeen. But initial indicatíons were that the new evidence would not prove helpful to prosecutors, he [SkeenJ saíc1.”52 The prosecution knew that once a jury was informed that the semen from Ms. Edwards’ panties did not belong to Mr. Cook, the State would not be able to convict Mr. Cook of her rape and murder. Again, Mayfield did not submit his blood until after the plea agreement was entered, so when the prosecution made the deal with Mr. Cook they may not have known with scientific certainty who did rape and kill Ms. Edwards, but they absolutely knew who did not — Kerry Max Cook.
52 See Davis McAuley, “Plea Bargain Ends 1917 Capital Murder Trial; Cook Still Says He Didn’t Do It,” THE
BASTRor ADVERTISER, February 18, 1999, a true and correct copy of which is attached hereto as Exhibit 15
While the prosecution may not have viewed the exculpatory DNA evidence as helpful, that evidence is clearly helpful to Mr. Cook and the results of that analysis warrant the further testing of the other biological evidence in this case.s3
E. Prior Forensic T ns of Rioloøical Evidence was and Insufficient.
1. A substantial volume of biological evidence was collected, tested and preserved by the State. The history of the physical and biological evidence in this case is notable, largely, for what was not done. In July 1977 the following evidence was submitted to the Texas Department of
Public Safety (Tyler, TX Laboratory) for physical testing:
b. Scissors (thought to be used in the murder and which appeared to contain blood evidence); Statue (thought to be used in the murder and which appeared to contain blood evidence);
d. The Victim’s panties;
e. Pillow and bedspread (which appeared to contain some blood evidence);
f. Terrarium lid (which contained blood evidence);
g. Contents of a vacuumed area near victim; and,
h. A knife (thought to be used in the murder and which appeared to contain blood evidence). Additional head and pubic hair were submitted on August 8, lg77 for comparative analysis. On September 15, 1977, the DPS confirmed the presence of human blood on the scissors, statue,
t’ Sue ,.g., In re Michqel Morton,326 S.V/.3d 634,639 (Tex. App. — Austin 2010) (holding that prior exculpatory
DNA test results “may be considered when conducting a chapter 64 analysis with respect to subsequent requests for
DNA testing of other evidence in the case.”)
panties, pillow, bedspread, glass top (terrarium) and knife. The DPS noted, however, that these blood samples did not respond to typing procedures, which means that no ABO grouping analysis was performed. Additionally, the DPS determined that ahair removed from the victim’s
buttocks did not match eìther the victim or Mr. Cook. The vacuumed contents contained the victim’s head and pubic hair and animal hair; those contents, however, did not match Mr. Cook. In 1978 the statue and knife were again tested, this time by the Southwestern Institute for Forensic Sciences (“SWIFS”) in Dallas, Texas. SWIFS confirmed that blood was human and was able to determine that the blood was type AB; no additional testing or analysis was performed.
As previously stated, during Mr. Cook’s 1992 retrial, the jury was examining the victim’s jeans and discovered, in the pant leg, her stocking which had been missing and unaccounted for during the previous 1 5 years. After the jury found this “missing” stocking in the leg of her jeans,
which had been sealed since the time of the offense, the State ordered forensic testing on certain of the evidence. On approximately February ll,1993 the following evidence was submitted to SWIFS54 for testing:
a. The stocking found by the jury in 1992:
b. The stocking recovered at the time of the murder;
c. The victim’s blue jeans; and
d. Head hair samples taken from the victim.
SWIFS determined that the stockings were consistent with each other and that animal hair was present on both and also on the jeans. Thereafter, on March lI, 1993, SWIFS notified the
5a In Novemb er 1992, the State submitted additional evidence to yet a third DPS laboratory (Austin) for testing and
District Attorney that human blood stains were found on the jeans and that those samples were frozen and preservedby SWIFS. However, no additional testing or analysis was performed. Prior to what would have been Mr. Cook’s fourth trial, on February 4, 1999, the State submitted the victim’s panties to the DPS’s Garland laboratory for potential DNA analysis and to determine (if possible) whether they were cut with a knife or with scissors. Also submitted were the terrarium lid, knife, the victim’s bra, and a hair found on the victim’s panties, all of which were to be tested for blood and/or DNA. The next day, and nearly 22 years after the rape and murder of Ms. Edwards, the DPS detected (for the first time) semen on the panties, and samples were taken for analysis. On February II, 1999 Mr. Cook’s blood was taken at the Garland laboratory for comparative analysis. On February 15, 1999 the DPS analyzed the slide containing the hair found on the victim’s buttocks, and located an immature hair root that, according to technicians, may be suitable for DNA testing. And as noted before, initial (non- DNA) analysis performed at the time of the murder indicated that the hair did not belong to eíther Ms Edwørds or Mn Cook.
Finally, and only after Mr. Cook entered his plea of no contest, Mr. Mayfield submitted his blood for testing on March 18, 1999. It was quickly apparent why Mr. Mayfield delayed for so long the submission of his blood and had been so hesitant to do so. Approximately three weeks later, the DPS confirmed that the semen found in the victim’s pantíes mutched Mr. MayJïeld’s DNA proJîle. The DPS also found that the DNA profile from the terrarium lid did not match either Mr. Cook or Mr. Mayfield. No DNA prof,rle was recovered from the knife and, despite the specific request that they be tested, no analysís was perþrmed on eíther høir (bru or buttocks). Remarkably, this evidence, which was found soaked in blood and which was recovered from the victim’s body, was never tested for a DNA profile, despite the DPS’s opinion in 1999 that at least one of these hairs — the one that did not belong to either Ms. Edwards or Mr. Cook — likely contained a root sufficient for DNA analysis and testing.
According to the Garland laboratory, samples from the panties, bra, glass lid, knife, Mr. Cook and Mr. Mayfield wercfrozen ønd preserved for future testing. Based on a review of documents acquired through public records requests, it appears that certain of the evidence, including biological evidence potentially capable of additional DNA analysis, was destroyed by the State. The record of disposition, however, remains unclear — particularly given that so many labs were involved in the testing of numerous items over a period of nearly 23 years. According to documents provided by SWIFS in response to a public records request, on August 23,2011 certain evidence (described as “tapings from 1, 2,4″) was released from the “casefile” to the Deputy Chief of Physical Evidence, who later released it to the “Evidence Registrar.”ss The document, a Chain of Custody form, lists the “Agency Name” as “Smith Co DA,” yet no such corresponding documents were provided by the Smith County
District Attorney in response to a similar public records request. Accordingly, in addition to the labs discussed in this Motion, it appears likely that the Smith County Criminal District Attorney’s Office also has in its possession biological evidence capable of further testing and
Over the past 35 years, four laboratories (Tyler, SWIFS, Austin and Garland) have received and tested evidence in connection with the murder of Ms. Edwards. As demonstrated
55 A review of other documents produced by SWIFS indicates that, prior to the entry of August 23,2011, the most
recent documented activity with respect to Mr. Cook’s case occuned on September 24, 1993 when it returned
evidence to the District Attorney. A true and correct copy of the August 23,2011 Chain of Custody is attached
hereto as Exhibit 16.
above, testing and analysis of that evidence has been less than thorough and comprehensive. But when tested, the results have been astounding — showing the absence of Mr. Cook at the crime scene and confirming the presence of Mr. Mayfield. Based on the DNA testing results received to date, there is no doubt that additional testing is contemplated by and falls within the plain scope of Chapter 64, and if conducted, will potentially provide additional evidence exculpating Mr. Cook. In addition to the evidence set forth above, given the history of this case it is possible that there may also be other highly probative items of biological material in the State’s possession about which Mr. Cook is unaware, but which may also be highly suitable for testing under Chapter 64.
Accordingly, Mr. Cook respectfully requests that the Courl require the State to (1) provide a full inventory of all biological material remaining in its possession (including that which was preserved and retained by any laboratory, office or entity, including but not limited to the four laboratories above, the Tyler Police Department, and the District Attorney), and for those items the State claims cannot be located, a record of any destruction or failure to preserve that has occurred since the inception of this case; (2) order the State to produce a complete set of laboratory reporls and bench notes for all forensic testing its agents have conducted (both DNA and non-DNA) in the case to date; and (3) enter an order for DNA testing on all potentially probative evidence that remains in its possession at an independent laboratory to be approved by this Court.
NEXT: CONCLUSION & PRAYER FOR RELIEF
Foggy and 66 degrees in Houston this midday.
A foggy start to this Monday, here is some of what I am following today…
A school bus driver and one student died this morning in a school bus accident on the city’s Southeastside. Two people were critically injured. The accident occurred about 7:40 a.m (EDT) two miles away from Lighthouse Charter School.
Rita Burris, a spokeswoman for the Indianapolis Fire District, said that two students were critically injured and 10 sustained non life-threatening injuries. Students were brought to the Wishard Memorial Hospital and Riley Hospital for Children. The rest of the students will be released to their parents. The age and gender of the student and the driver who died were not immediately known. About 50 children were on the bus, ranging in age from 5 to 16, Burris said. Many of the students were trapped inside the bus after the accident, according to the Metropolitan Emergency Communications Agency.
A new CBS News/New York Times poll shows Rick Santorum holding a very slight lead over Mitt Romney among Republican primary voters across the nation, but GOP voters increasingly expect Romney to eventually win the nomination. In the survey conducted between March 7 and March 11, 34 percent of Republican primary voters said they support Santorum, compared to 30 percent for Romney. Santorum’s lead falls within the poll’s margin of error.
CNN is reporting that Joe Paterno was fired as head coach of the Penn State football team because the university’s board of trustees thought he failed to take his knowledge of a scandal at the school to the appropriate authorities, the board said in a report posted online Monday. The trustees said they based their decision to fire Paterno heavily on testimony he gave to a grand jury about allegations that former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky was involved in inappropriate sexual behavior with a minor. During testimony, Paterno said that he was told by a graduate assistant that Sandusky was in the showers “fondling or doing something of a sexual nature to a young boy.”
I cannot stand Rush Limbaugh. The one time drug addicted mouthpiece of the Republican party makes me want to throw up. He is crass, rude and many times inappropriate. I wish El Fat-Baugh wasn’t on the air…but he is…and I am here today to defend his right to say whatever he damn well pleases. I find it incredulous and equally disgusting that “Hanoi Jane” Fonda, Gloria “I hate men” Steinem and Robin Morgan, co founders of the Women’s Media Center have called for the F.C.C. to ban Limbaugh and/or withhold the license of the Clear Channel radio stations that carry Limbaugh.
Fonda exercised her free speech during the Vietnam War by visiting Hanoi and sitting in a North Vietnamese Anti-Aircraft gun that was used to shoot down U.S. Air Force planes. “Hanoi Jane” as she was known used her freedom of speech to deride her fellow countrymen while we were at war. She probably should have been shot by a firing squad but that’s not the free speech issue I am tackling today. Far too frequently, Americans find offense in anothers art, music or other expression, and then they call for censorship. This is intolerable. The First Amendment stands for principles like that espoused by the Supreme Court in West Virginia v. Barnette: “Of there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein.”
Or that wisdom given to us by New York Times v. Sullivan, “Debate on public issues … [should be] … uninhibited, robust, and wide-open.” The First Amendment requires neither tact nor politeness. It requires that we permit all views to set up stalls in the marketplace of ideas, and we let that marketplace decide which ideas prevail. Rush Limbaugh has a right to his views. Just as important, his fans have a right to hear him. Those of us who disagree with him have a right to fight him, but we must do so on our own. Using the government to support our view is constitutionally intolerable. Trying to bully him off the air is wrong. Some call for the Federal Communications Commission to pull Clear Channel’s broadcast licenses if they keep Limbaugh on the air, because they believe that Rush Limbaugh does not “serve the public interest.” This is inaccurate and not permissible under the Constitution.
It is a terrifying prospect that the government might review the political and social positions of a broadcaster when deciding who gets access to the airwaves. Should the government censor books that it finds to be unpopular or offensive? There is the argument that with a limited number of radio frequencies available, broadcasters should use them in the “public interest.” But how would these would-be censors expect the FCC to make that determination? Should there be a “politeness test?” Would this ban programming featuring George Carlin, Bill Maher, Lenny Bruce or Snooki? These would-be-censors want Limbaugh off the air because he does not serve their interests. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t serve a “public interest.” There is no clearer “public interest” than the dissemination of political speech. Limbaugh brings together millions of listeners who share his views. If that is not the “public interest,” then what is?
Another way to get Limbaugh off the air is to try and pressure his syndicator or his advertisers — gathering people of like mind to use their collective economic power to force Limbaugh off the air. This is constitutionally tolerable, but morally wrong. If you disagree with someone who is on stage, it is wrong to stand up and yell to drown out his voice. This improperly interferes with your fellow citizens’ right to receive information. Limbaugh’s audience has a right to hear him. Drowning out his voice by organized bullying is no way to pay tribute to our most cherished liberty. It may be your right to do so, but it doesn’t make it the right thing to do. Should the marketplace of ideas lose a stall because someone in it said some “naughty words?”
Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. wrote: “When men have realized that time has upset many fighting faiths, they may come to believe even more than they believe the very foundations of their own conduct that the ultimate good desired is better reached by free trade in ideas — that the best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market, and that truth is the only ground upon which their wishes safely can be carried out. That at any rate is the theory of our Constitution.”
The challenge in this view is that it requires hard work on the part of those who wish to beat Limbaugh. It requires us to place our ideas into competition with Limbaugh’s. I despise Limbaugh not because he uttered one or two nasty words, but because his views are nasty. I don’t bother debating the ditto-heads who agree with him. In our adversarial system of contentious debate, I choose to call him out and call him names. That’s my right. If I don’t support Limbaugh’s right to spew forth his filth, than I don’t have the right to spew forth my own. Free speech means tolerating views that you despise. Otherwise, one day, it will be your views that someone doesn’t like. I have no problem with letting Limbaugh’s advertisers know how we feel about his rhetoric and I have no problem with letting the free market determine whether he remains on the air but the government shutting him down is not and should not be an option.
Here we go again. The massacre of 16 villagers by a rogue United States soldier has triggered angry calls for an immediate American exit from Afghanistan as Washington tries to negotiate a long-term presence to keep the country from sliding into chaos again. Afghanistan’s parliament condemned the killing said the Afghan people had run out of patience with their lack of oversight of foreign soldiers in the country. “The Wolesi Jirga [parliament] announces that once again Afghans have run out of patience with the arbitrary actions of foreign forces,” the parliament said in a statement. The Taliban vowed revenge against the US in a statement posted on their website on Monday that said “American savages” committed the “blood-soaked and inhumane crime” in Panjwai district.
The Taliban vowed revenge? Again? I guess this reporter did not realize that we were on such good terms with the Taliban prior to this incident. Just days before Sunday’s attack, Kabul and Washington had made significant progress in negotiations on a Strategic Partnership Agreement that would allow American advisers and special forces to stay in Afghanistan after foreign combat troops leave at the end of 2014. But securing a full deal may be far more difficult now after the shooting spree in villages in the southern province of Kandahar, the Taliban heartland, which killed mostly women and children. “This could delay the signing of the Strategic Partnership Agreement,” an Afghan government official told the Reuters news agency. The attack, the latest American public relations disaster in Afghanistan, may be a turning point for the United States in a costly and unpopular war now in its eleventh year.
Popular fury over the killing spree, which brought demands that the United States withdraw earlier than scheduled, could be exploited by the Taliban to gain new recruits. “We have benefited little from the foreign troops here but lost everything – our lives, dignity and our country to them,”said Haji Najiq, a Kandahar shop owner. “The explanation or apologies will not bring back the dead. It is better for them to leave us alone and let us live in peace.” Anti-Americanism, which boiled over after copies of the Muslim holy book, the Quran, were inadvertently burned at a NATO base last month is likely to deepen after the Kandahar carnage. “The Americans said they will leave in 2014. They should leave now so we can live in peace,” said Mohammad Fahim, 19, a university student. “Even if the Taliban return to power our elders can work things out with them. The Americans are disrespectful.”
The civilian deaths may also force Afghan President Hamid Karzai to harden his stand in the partnership talks to appease a public already critical of his government’s performance. President Barack Obama has called his Afghan counterpart, Hamid Karzai, to express his condolences after a U.S. soldier in Afghanistan wandered off base and killed more than a dozen villagers in their homes. The US has also promised a full investigation into Sunday’s rampage in Kandahar, in southern Afghanistan, which left 16 civilians, who included three women and nine children, dead. “This incident is tragic and shocking, and does not represent the exceptional character of our military and the respect that the United States has for the people of Afghanistan,” Obama said in a statement released on Sunday by the White House.
Separately, Leon Panetta, the US defence secretary, pledged to ”bring those responsible to justice” and said a full investigation was under way. The US embassy in Kabul has sent out an alert to its citizens in Afghanistan cautioning that as a result of the shooting, “there is a risk of anti-American feelings and protests in coming days”. For his part, Karzai condemned the killings as “unforgivable” and demanded an explanation from the US government. “When Afghan people are killed deliberately by US forces this action is murder and terror and an unforgivable action,” he said in statement. The shootings come at a particularly sensitive and critical time for the US, just as violence over the burning of copies of the Quran, the Muslim holy book, at a U.S. base was starting to calm down.
At least 41 people were killed in violence related to those protests. Senior US officials were scrambling to determine what caused the soldier to go on a shooting spree after leaving his base in southern Afghanistan, apparently heavily armed and carrying night-vision equipment. Officials confirmed that the soldier was being detained in Kandahar and that the military was treating at least five wounded people. One US official said the soldier, an army staff sergeant, was believed to have acted alone and that initial reports indicated he returned to the base after the shooting and turned himself in. General John Allen, the US military commander in Afghanistan, issued a statement pledging a “rapid and thorough investigation” into the incident, and said the soldier will remain in US custody.
Al Jazeera’s Bernard Smith, reporting from Herat on Sunday, said the soldier entered three houses near the base and opened fire on civilians. “We are now being told by the police sources that the US soldier left his base at three o’clock this morning. It would have been pitch-black wherever he walked,” he said. “The soldier went through three separate houses, shooting at people as they slept in their beds. After the soldier shot these people, he turned himself in. “It is frankly disastrous. It is not just a disaster for the people who were murdered and killed in their houses, it is disaster for the country I suspect.”
Najeeb Azizi, a Kabul-based Afghan analyst, said the shooting will have deep repercussions on the already tenuous relations with the US. “It is a very tragic incident in particular because the Afghan and US governments are trying to sign a strategic agreement for a long-term solution,” he said. “A very bad message the Afghan people are getting, that if US military remains in Afghanistan beyond 2014 and their attitude and behavior remains the same – of killing innocent civilians – what will be the consequences, and how will the Afghan people respond to it.”
The killing of civilians cannot be tolerated and is, indeed, tragic. This soldier needs to be held to the highest standards and dealt with harshly but to pretend like anything is actually different in Afghanistan is disingenuous. Afghanistan hates us. The idea that we are going to sit around the table with Karzai and the Taliban and drink tea is a joke. We invaded Afghanistan, post 9/11, went after terrorists and now find ourselves in a quagmire similar to other places we have tried to make nice through force. It wont work. It will never work. The sad reality is that the only way to get contrition is to bomb the Taliban back to the stone age but what do you do when they are already living in the stone age? You leave. It’s time for us to get out of Afghanistan but maintain a military presence in the region for our eventual return. THAT is reality.