Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Rule of Law In Iraq: My address to the Berkeley-Albany Bar Association

I am delighted to be here today. During the course of my 15 minutes of fame upon returning from being an embedded reporter in Iraq, I have been asked to speak by NBC, ABC, NPR, CBS, the BBC and even Fox News. That was no big deal. But when the BABA asked me to speak? I was really excited and pleased. Thank you for having me here today.

Once you have been to Iraq, you see that country very differently. You not only sympathize with the poor Iraqi schmucks over there who are being shot at by US troops, various militias, 12 different kinds of terrorists, both Sunni and Shia resistance fighters, wannabe mafia dons, opportunistic looters, cold-hearted kidnappers, Al Qaeda and Islamic extremists but you also come to sympathize with and really identify with the American soldiers as well. And when I just missed getting blown up when a suicide bomber blew up the Parliament cafeteria and I was there at the hospital when the injured Parliametarians started pouring in, I came to hate war as well.

I would also like to talk for a moment about the fundamental disintegration of the rule of law in Iraq -- and if I do, then maybe you might be able to get some MCLE credits from this talk after all. In 2003, George W. Bush unleashed Shock and Awe on the country of Iraq and, in my opinion, this was the equivalent for the poor Iraqis to the carnage recently done to Virginia Tech by a gun-crazed shooter. But then Bush did something equally bad or even worse. As far as I can tell, after his bloody assault on Iraq, Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Paul Bremmer then systematically went about dismantling all established systems of rule of law over there, including the court system, the public safety system, the legal system and the military. And without its structure to enforce rule of law, the country basically fell apart at the seams.

There's a moral here. The American justice system may be the brunt of a lot of bad lawyer jokes, but it is also the glue that holds this country together as well. Allegedly.

If there is one thing I've learned from working with lawyers -- it's always to end every statement with "allegedly".

Another thing I have learned from working in law offices is how many times that you guys get hit up for free advice. So I'm gonna force myself to be forbearing here and not ask you for any today either. I'm NOT going to say, "After my experience in trying to get embedded in Iraq and being repeatedly turned down for no valid reason, should I sue the Department of Defense for discrimination? Or not?"

And I'm definitely not going to lay out my case about how they -- allegedly -- continuously kept me from receiving an embed even though I was sponsored by Senator Boxer, Congresswoman Lee and four different news services including the San Francisco Chronicle. Or how it took me almost a full year to finally get permission to embed. Or how even after being given basic permission to get credentialed, I was repeatedly denied an actual embed.

And you will not hear it from me that even after I got over there, I was not allowed out of the Green Zone while other reporters freely came and went. And neither will you have to listen to me complain about how I have been seeking permission for over a month to return to Iraq for another embed over there and have even had actual units request me and they are STILL not letting me back into the country. Allegedly. I'll protect you guys from all that. And I won't even demand that you all take my case up to the Supreme Court!

But I will, however, take the witness stand here and answer any questions you might have regarding my Iraq experience -- and if any of you want to cross-examine me, go ahead. Then you can be the judge of whether or not our troops should leave Iraq. But after my own experiences there, I say that we should.

And we should also put Bush and Cheney on trial for war profiteering -- and genocide.