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As the news of the Kandahar Massacre circles the globe, the eyes of the international community are once again scrutinising the USA’s dubious and often appalling human rights record – particularly when they are intervening/invading in some foreign country.

From urinating on corpses, drones bringing mass slaughter to wedding parties, death squads murdering completely innocent, unarmed teenagers and the unprovoked and brutal assassination of children asleep in their beds the USA’s intervention in Afghanistan has descended into pure terror. As President Ronald Reagan's former NSA Director and 3 Star General William Odom once put it “Terrorism is not an enemy. It is a tactic.”

Of course the chance of US soldiers facing a court in Afghanistan is absolutely zero. Without doubt the soldier responsible will be evacuated out of the country to face possible court-martial in the US. Regardless of the justice meted out there the Afghan people, including the families of the dead children, will not have their day in court.

But impunity and a complete disregard for local people within the countries they serve was always the way for the US military. And Thais should look no further than the present US Ambassador to Thailand, Kristie Kenney, for a perfect example of this.

Previously I’ve written about the Subic rape case here. In brief, a US Marine serving in the Philippines was convicted in a Philippine court of raping a local woman. The US government, however, refused, despite the overwhelming evidence at that time, to accept the conviction and the Marine was rushed to the protection of the US Embassy compound and never served a day of his sentence. The US hid the convicted Marine behind something called the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) – a legal device very similar to colonial-era laws where the dominant nation refuses to acknowledge the jurisdiction of local laws. Eventually under very dubious circumstances – with payoffs and the victim being granted US citizenship – the Marine won an appeal.

At that time Kristie Kenney was the US Ambassador to the Philippines. When I wrote my original piece the Embassy wikileaks cables relating to that period had not yet been released. They were last year and it’s fair to say, after reading them, that Kristie Kenney played a significant role in freeing this rapist and making sure that opposition to this abrogation of Philippine sovereignty by elected Filipino law-makers was stymied. (A list of cables involving Kenney and the Subic rape case can be found here)

Some of Kenney’s interventions have a deeply cynical taint to them and begin with a cable written by Kenney and entitle “Handling The Marine "rape" Case -- Next Steps” dated 27 April 2006. Kenney writes -

“Through our repeated public statements and in our private conversations with senior GRP [Government of Republic of Philippines] officials and members of the Philippine Congress, we have continued to steer a steady course that protects the rights of the four Marines...”

When set against the almost complete silence that Kenney has encouraged in the case of imprisoned US blogger (hear about her attempt to stop difficult questions by the Thai media here), Joe Gordon, someone she has never visited despite his being in prison only a 30minute drive from Kenney’s palatial house in downtown Bangkok, her evident enthusiasm to help free those charged with rape is extraordinary and very revealing.

In another cable Kenney bemoans the “sensational” media coverage at the time of the rape, dismisses feminists protesters as “token” and lays out a plan in case of a guilty verdict – in this scenario “Any Marines found guilty will remain in Embassy custody.”

One has to wonder if Kenney raised her intervention in the Subic rape case and her dismissal of Filipino feminists during her recent Embassy-hosted “International Women’s Day” party? Given her cynicism the answer can only be a resounding no.

In this cable Kenney lays out the services afforded to the US Marine, Lance Corporal Smith, who has by now been found guilty of rape, and makes sure his rights are being respected. In a section entitled “EMBASSY PROVIDES SIGNIFICANT SUPPORT” Kenney writes

“[Smith] is currently in a CONEX-type trailer, with basic amenities and access to fitness and sports facilities. Representatives from the III Marine Expeditionary Forces supervise him at all times.  The Regional Security Office has spent significant time and resources ensuring Smith's safety and security, including during Smith's appearances in court and, more recently, during Smith's hospital visits for minor procedures. American Citizen Services officers, who attended all trial sessions, have also kept close watch over the case, liaising with Smith's family and ensuring Smith's rights as a U.S. citizen are respected.”

Set against the conditions Joe Gordon has been kept in and that, unlike Smith, Joe committed his “crime” on US soil, the difference in treatment that Kenney helped secure is staggering. No matter how abhorrent the crime, impunity for serving members of US military seems to be paramount for Kenney. A blogger offering up a translation of Yale University book are entirely secondary. If only Joe Gordon had been a US Marine rapist.

Kenney reveals in another cable her personal concerns for the convicted US Marine rapist’s welfare –

Renewed high-level judicial and political focus on the rape case of Marine Lance Corporal Daniel J. Smith has underscored the profound importance of this issue ... for LCpl Smith's future.

But it is in a cable entitled INTERNATIONAL COURT OF JUSTICE ELECTION Kenney’s cynicism really comes to the fore. Here the present US Ambassador discusses Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago, an experienced and committed Filipino law-maker who is perceived as being anti the VFA which has kept Smith out of prison and grants the US military almost complete impunity.

Kenney writes –

Senator Santiago is a vocal advocate for justice, human rights, and the rule of law.  She is a passionate crusader against government corruption, and in the rough and noisy world of Philippine politics, has remained untainted by corruption scandals.

Kenney then adds

In late 2005, [Santiago] initiated a Congressional move to abrogate the agreement after the U.S. government turned down the Philippines' request for custody over the four servicemen accused in the controversial November 2005 Subic rape case.

However, and very strangely, Kenney then recounts Santiago’s opposition suddenly being dropped

“After a briefing at the U.S. Embassy and a visit to the accused servicemen, Senator Santiago dropped her efforts to abrogate the VFA.”

We’ll never know what was in that “briefing” but given the USA and Kenney’s obvious desperation in making sure the convicted rapist never faced a day in prison and that the important strategic US-Philippines military alliance, conditional on the VFA, held, we can only speculate.

Kenney finished out her days in the Philippines taking part in the “papaya dance” on national TV and making bitchy comments about elected Filipino politicians behind closed doors.

In Thailand she’s spent her time making sure that no progressive voices in Thai politics are arrayed against the US. This is despite the US being a huge supporter of the same Thai Army that has repeatedly crushed Thai democracy and murdered Thai nationals, often with US weapons and using US training methods. Publicly, she has spent more time taking part in tacky Tatler photo shoots than addressing the human rights of US nationals like Joe Gordon and seems content that the US-armed/trained Thai Army maintains its impunity. From rapists to those who arm murderers and on to the jailing of US bloggers there is very little Kristie Kenney won’t utilise her formidable PR skills in support of.

Maybe Kenney now needs to get on a plane to Kabul? Unfortunately though, there’s no Afghan Tatler for her to appear in. There is, however, a US Army murderer for her to save.

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