Posts Tagged ‘US media’

Are US forces executing children in Afghanistan? Americans don’t even know to ask

January 5, 2010

By Dave Lindorff, This Can’t Be Happening,  Jan 3, 2009

The Taliban suicide attack that killed a group of CIA agents in Afghanistan on a base that was directing US drone aircraft used to attack Taliban leaders was big news in the US over the past week, with the airwaves and front pages filled with sympathetic stories referring to the fact that the female station chief, who was among those killed, was the “mother of three children.”

But the apparent mass murder of Afghan school children, including one as young as 11 years old, by US-led forces (most likely either special forces or mercenary contractors working for the Pentagon or the CIA), was pretty much blacked out in the American media. Especially blacked out was word from UN investigators that the students had not just been killed but executed, many of them after having first been rousted from their bedroom and handcuffed.

Here is the excellent report on the incident that ran in the Times of London (like Fox News, a Rupert Murdoch-owned publication) on Dec. 31:

Western troops accused of executing 10 Afghan civilians, including children

By Jerome Starkey in Kabul

American-led troops were accused yesterday of dragging innocent children from their beds and shooting them during a night raid that left ten people dead.

Afghan government investigators said that eight schoolchildren were killed, all but one of them from the same family. Locals said that some victims were handcuffed before being killed.

Western military sources said that the dead were all part of an Afghan terrorist cell responsible for manufacturing improvised explosive devices (IEDs), which have claimed the lives of countless soldiers and civilians.

“This was a joint operation that was conducted against an IED cell that Afghan and US officials had been developing information against for some time,” said a senior Nato insider. But he admitted that “the facts about what actually went down are in dispute”.

The article goes on to say:

In a telephone interview last night, the headmaster [of the local school] said that the victims were asleep in three rooms when the troops arrived. “Seven students were in one room,” said Rahman Jan Ehsas. “A student and one guest were in another room, a guest room, and a farmer was asleep with his wife in a third building.

“First the foreign troops entered the guest room and shot two of them. Then they entered another room and handcuffed the seven students. Then they killed them. Abdul Khaliq [the farmer] heard shooting and came outside. When they saw him they shot him as well. He was outside. That’s why his wife wasn’t killed.”

A local elder, Jan Mohammed, said that three boys were killed in one room and five were handcuffed before they were shot. “I saw their school books covered in blood,” he said.

The investigation found that eight of the victims were aged from 11 to 17. The guest was a shepherd boy, 12, called Samar Gul, the headmaster said. He said that six of the students were at high school and two were at primary school. He said that all the students were his nephews.

Compare this article to the one mention of the incident which appeared in the New York Times, one of the few American news outlets to even mention the incident. The Times, on Dec. 28, focusing entirely on the difficulty civilian killings cause for the US war effort, and not on the allegation of a serious war crime having been committed, wrote:

Attack Puts Afghan Leader and NATO at Odds

By Alissa J. Rubin and Abdul Waheed Wafa

KABUL, Afghanistan — The killing of at least nine men in a remote valley of eastern Afghanistan by a joint operation of Afghan and American forces put President Hamid Karzai and senior NATO officials at odds on Monday over whether those killed had been civilians or Taliban insurgents.

In a statement e-mailed to the news media, Mr. Karzai condemned the weekend attack and said the dead had been civilians, eight of them schoolboys. He called for an investigation.

Local officials, including the governor and members of Parliament from Kunar Province, where the deaths occurred, confirmed the reports. But the Kunar police chief, Khalilullah Ziayee, cautioned that his office was still investigating the killings and that outstanding questions remained, including why the eight young men had been in the same house at the time.

“There are still questions to be answered, like why these students were together and what they were doing on that night,” Mr. Ziayee said.

A senior NATO official with knowledge of the operation said that the raid had been carried out by a joint Afghan-American force and that its target was a group of men who were known Taliban members and smugglers of homemade bombs, which the American and NATO forces call improvised explosive devices, or I.E.D.’s.

According to the NATO official, nine men were killed. “These were people who had a well-established network, they were I.E.D. smugglers and also were responsible for direct attacks on Afghan security and coalition forces in those areas,” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the delicacy of the issue.

“When the raid took place they were armed and had material for making I.E.D.’s,” the official added.

While the article in the New York Times eventually mentions the allegation that the victims were children, not “men,” it nonetheless begins with the unchallenged assertion in the lead that they were “men.” There is no mention of the equally serious allegation that the victims had been handcuffed before being executed, and the story leaves the impression, made by NATO sources, that they were armed and had died fighting. There is no indication in the Times story that the reporters made any effort, as the more enterprising and skeptical London Times reporter did, to get local, non-official, sources of information. Moreover, the information claiming that the victims had been making bombs was attributed by Rubin and Wafa, with no objections from their editors in New York, to an anonymous NATO source, though there was no legitimate reason for the anonymity (“because of the delicacy of the situation” was the lame excuse offered)–indeed the use of an anonymous source here would appear to violate the Times’ own standards.

It’s not that in American newsrooms there was no knowledge that a major war crime may have been committed. Nearly all American news organizations receive the AP newswire. Here is the AP report on the killings, which ran under the headline “UN says killed Afghans were students”:

The United Nations says a raid last weekend by foreign troops in a tense eastern Afghan province killed eight local students.

The Afghan government says that all 10 people killed in a village in Kunar province were civilians. NATO says there is no evidence to substantiate the claim and has requested a joint investigation.

UN special representative in Afghanistan Kai Eide said in a statement Thursday that preliminary investigation shows there were insurgents in the area at the time of the attack. But he adds that eight of those killed were students in local schools.

Once again, the American media are falling down shamefully in providing honest reporting on a war, making it difficult for the American people to make informed judgements about what is being done in their name.

Let’s be clear here. If the charges are correct, that American forces, or American-led forces, are handcuffing their victims and then executing them, then they are committing egregious war crimes. If they are killing children, they are committing equally egregious war crimes. If they are handcuffing and executing children, the atrocity is beyond horrific. This incident, if true, would actually be worse than the infamous war crime that occurred in My Lai during the Vietnam War. In that case, we had ordinary soldiers in the field, acting under the orders of several low-ranking officers in the heat of an operation, shooting and killing women, children and babies. But in this case we appear to have seasoned special forces troops actually directing the taking captives, cuffing them, herding them into a room, and spraying them with bullets, execution style.

Given the history of the commanding general in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, who is known to have run a massive death squad operation in Iraq before being named to his current post by President Obama, and who is known to have called for the same kind of tactics in Afghanistan, it should not be surprising that the US would now be committing atrocities in Afghanistan. If this is how this war is going to be conducted, though, the US media should be making a major effort to uncover and expose the crime.

On January 1, the London Times’ Starkey, in Afghanistan, followed up with a second story, reporting that Afghan President Hamid Karzai is calling for the US to hand over the people who killed the students. He also quoted a “NATO source” as saying that the “foreigners involved” in the incident were “non-military, suggesting that they were part of a secret paramilitary unit based in the capital” of Kabul. Starkey also quotes a “Western official” as saying: “There’s no doubt that there were insurgents there, and there may well have been an insurgent leader in the house, but that doesn’t justify executing eight children who were all enrolled in local schools.”

Good enterprise reporting by the London Times and its Kabul-based correspondent. Silence on these developments in the US media.

Meanwhile, it has been a week now since the New York Times reporters Rubin and Wafa made their first flawed and embarrassingly one-sided report on the incident, and there has been not a word since then about it in the paper. Are Rubin and Wafa or other Times reporters on the story? Will there be a follow-up?

On the evidence of past coverage of these US wars and their ongoing atrocities by the Times and by other major US corporate media news organizations, don’t bet on it. You’ll do better looking to the foreign media for real information about a story like this.

By the way, given that we’re talking the allegation of a serious war crime here, it is important to note that, under the Geneva Conventions, it is a legal requirement that the US military chain of command immediately initiate an official investigation to determine whether such a crime has occurred, and if so, to establish who was responsible and bring them to justice. One would hope that the commander in chief, President Obama, would order such an inquiry.

Any effort to prevent such an inquiry, or to cover up a war crime, would be a war crime in itself. We just had one administration that did a lot of that. We don’t need another one.

Editorial Comment:

As a teenager, I spent a year going to school in Darmstadt, in what was then West Germany. I used to have many discussions with German friends about how Germans could have allowed Nazism to happen, and how anyone could have allowed the kinds of atrocities which we Americans learned that German soldiers had committed during the war–the destroying of entire towns when one partisan fired on a German soldier, the killing of prisoners of war, etc. Of course we know now that Americans too committed equally heinous war crimes, culminating in the use of the two atomic bombs against civilian targets, not to mention the firebombing of Darmstadt itself by the Brits. But the larger point at the time was, how could Germans, who are decent people for the most part, have allowed the horror of Nazism to happen?

Now we are confronted yet again with an example of American military forces (and it matters not a whit whether they are uniformed regular soldiers or paid mercenaries who executed those Afghan kids) apparently committing exactly the type of atrocity for which the German Waffen SS was known. And whether or not the charges are true, there is enough evidence at this point, with the special UN representative in Afghanistan saying it happened, for us to believe it probably did happen. Yet there has not been one editorial in the US media calling for an open investigation into this alleged atrocity. No Americans are marching in the street demanding answers. Obama, whose daughter Malia is 11–the same age as the youngest of the slain boys–has not said a word, although Afghan students are demonstrating en masse, and burning him in effigy because of this latest outrage.

So what makes us Americans any better than the Germans of 1940? In a way, we are really worse. It would have taken considerable courage, as my German friends have pointed out, to take a stand against German atrocities in 1940, when such a stand could mean arrest, imprisonment and even execution, even execution of one’s family. No such risks are faced by Americans who take a stand against American atrocities. Here one faces, at most, social ostracism or a minor citation for arrest at a protest.

We are, as a nation, only as good as our worst behavior and our worst impulses, and can be judged by how we respond to them when they are manifested in our name. And right now, Americans aren’t looking very good at all.

PS: Kudos to David Swanson of the website www.afterdowningstreet.org, for bringing attention to this story.

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Blaming the Dead Victims

May 12, 2009

By DAVE LINDORFF | Counterpunch, May 11, 2009

We’re been here before, many times.

The US causes massive civilian deaths through its indiscriminate use of heavy air power, and then tries to claim it’s the enemy’s fault for “hiding” among the civilians and “using them as shields.”

In Vietnam, where the US was fighting against a local revolutionary movement that was seeking to overthrow the puppet regime backed by America, American planes routinely bombed and napalmed villages, claiming that the Viet Cong were hiding amongst the peasants. Women, old men and children would die in droves—several million of them by the time that war was over–and we’d be told it was all the fault of the Communists, who, we were told, had no regard for innocent life.

In Iraq, we took a city of 300,000, Fallujah, and effectively leveled it. Anyone who died there was presumed to be an insurgent, though the truth was, the Marines encircling the city before the onslaught only allowed fleeing women, girls and male children who were under the age 12 to flee, sending older boys and men seeking to get out back into the city to meet their fate.

Just this week, the brave Marines in Iraq blew away a 12-year-old boy after someone tossed a grenade their way.  Local people said the grenade had been tossed by an older man standing near the boy, who fled. The unlucky boy, who was just a kid who sold gum for a living, had not done anything, local people said.

Now it’s Afghanistan, where upwards of 120 people, including babies and small children, were slaughtered during a battle in a remote part of the country in the latest example of mass deaths at the hands of American forces. Local people say that several villages in the Bala Baluk district of Farah Province of were intensely bombarded by US planes, causing most if not all of the deaths. The US response to the initial charges of a mass slaughter of civilians was to blame the deaths on the Taliban. When it became clear that the victims had died of burns and shrapnel, not from bullets, the US came out with a new explanation: The Taliban had tossed grenades at the locals. But reporters at the scene reported seeing huge craters and leveled buildings—not what you get from hand grenades.  Then came reports of unusually deep and localized burns—the type caused by white phosphorus—a weapon that the US has used widely in Iraq–including in densely populated Fallujah—and in Afghanistan.

The Pentagon immediately said it did not use white phosphorus bombs in the battle in question, and suggested instead that perhaps the Taliban had used phosphorus grenades. This again was an absurd argument. The purpose of phosphorus weapons, primarily, is to light up a battlefield, but Taliban fighters don’t want lit up battlefields. They prefer operating the dark. It is the US that wants to light up targets.

Besides, there are those craters to explain.

So the next dance step was to say that the Taliban had caused the deaths, because during their retreat they had fled to the town, miles from the scene of the battle that led to the calling in of air support by US advisers to embattled government forces, and in so doing, had brought the attack upon the villagers.

Well, assuming that is true, there is still the problem that under the Geneva Conventions, it is a war crime to attack an enemy where the risk of harming large numbers of civilians is too great. The extreme example would the bombing of a school full of children on the grounds that a few enemy soldiers were hiding in the school (something that the Israeli military did in Gaza during the recent invasion, causing the deaths of dozens of children). But bombing a town full of people in order to hit a few retreating enemy fighters is equally criminal—a point that the Pentagon, and the compliant US media, are ignoring.

Barack Obama’s war in Afghanistan—for it is indeed his war now—is turning into the same kind of bloody imperial slaughter that Iraq was earlier under President Bush.  The stated objective—eliminating Al Qaeda—has been lost. The enemy of all this fighting isn’t Al Qaeda at all; it is the indigenous Taliban—the former governing power in Afghanistan until the US invasion in 2001, and a political organization that never was an enemy of the US.

Whatever one might think of the religious fanatics and misogynists who go under the name Taliban, they are not seeking to overthrow the West. They are simply seeking to return to power in Afghanistan, one of the poorest, remotest, and economically and politically least important countries in the world.

And to defeat that movement, if that can even be done, the US is going to have to kill Afghani civilians by the truckload, as it has been doing.

And then there has to be the inevitable dancing around to hide the criminality of what the US is doing.

The blame-the-victim dance goes on.

Dave Lindorff is a Philadelphia-based journalist and columnist. His latest book is “The Case for Impeachment” (St. Martin’s Press, 2006 and now available in paperback). He can be reached at dlindorff@mindspring.com

What is the Unites States preparing in Pakistan?

May 5, 2009
Keith Jones | WSWS, 5 May 2009

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari will undoubtedly come under renewed pressure to allow US military forces to wage war within Pakistan when he visits Washington this week for a trilateral summit meeting with President Obama and Afghanistan’s Hamid Karzai.

For weeks, the US political and military establishment and the American media have been mounting an increasingly shrill campaign to bully Islamabad into fully complying with US diktats in what Washington has redefined as the AfPak (Afghanistan-Pakistan) war theater.

At the US’s behest, the Pakistani military has for the past 10 days been mounting a bloody offensive—including strafing by warplanes and heavy artillery—against Pakistani Taliban militia in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP). The offensive has caused large numbers of civilian casualties and forced tens of thousands of poor villagers to flee.

Between 600,000 and a million Pakistanis have been turned into refugees by the Pakistani state’s drive to pacify the NWFP and the country’s traditionally autonomous Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), so as to bolster the US occupation of Afghanistan.

The US ruling elite has welcomed the latest round of bloodletting, but it is far from satisfied. The flurry of threats, implicit and explicit, against Pakistan, its people and government has continued unabated in the run-up to Zardari’s Washington visit.

At an April 29th press conference, Obama described Pakistan’s civilian government as “very fragile” and not having “the capacity to deliver basic services” to its people, or to gain their “support and loyalty.” But he praised the Pakistani military and the “strong” US-Pakistani “military consultation and cooperation.”

Given Washington’s pivotal role in sustaining a succession of military dictatorships in Islamabad, Obama’s statement was widely interpreted both in Pakistan and within the US political establishment as signaling that Washington is considering sponsoring a military coup.

This was underscored by reports citing the chief of the US Central Command, General David Petraeus, as saying that if the Zardari government did not demonstrate over the next two weeks that it can crush the Taliban insurgency in the country’s northwest, the US will have to determine its “next course of action.” Petraeus went on to declare Pakistan’s military “superior” to the country’s civilian government.

Such was the outcry in Pakistan that State Department spokesman Robert Wood was forced to deny Friday that Islamabad faces a two-week “time frame.” Nonetheless, he bluntly asserted that Washington expects Pakistan to make a “110 percent effort” in the fight against the Taliban, and not for “two days, two weeks, two months,” but for the foreseeable future.

Obama’s special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke, denounced the apprehensions voiced in the Pakistani press that less than nine months after the last US-backed dictator, General Pervez Musharraf, was forced to relinquish the Pakistani presidency, Washington is considering supporting a military-led government. “This is journalistic garbage … journalistic gobbledygook,” declared Holbrooke.

The evidence that the Obama administration is preparing some new crime in Pakistan so as to ratchet up its war in Central Asia is overwhelming.

With the transparent aim of intensifying the pressure on Zardari, the Obama administration, according to high-level administration officials cited last week in the Wall Street Journal and New York Times, is now courting his arch-rival, former prime minister and Pakistan Muslim League (N) leader Nawaz Sharif.

Obama, at his press conference last week, claimed that the US wants to respect Pakistani sovereignty. “But,” he added, “we also recognize that we have huge strategic interests, huge national security interests in making sure Pakistan is stable.”

In other words, the US will violate Pakistan’s sovereignty at will. Since last August, the US has mounted dozens of missile strikes within Pakistan and one Special Forces ground attack.

Last week, Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced that the Obama administration is asking the US Congress to give the Pentagon the same powers in relation to military aid to Pakistan that it has in respect to military assistance to the puppet governments in Iraq and Afghanistan. Under this “unique” arrangement, military aid to Pakistan would no longer flow through the State Department or be subject to Foreign Assistance Act restrictions, but rather be entirely controlled by the Pentagon.

Then there is the extraordinary lead article in yesterday’s New York Times, headlined “Pakistan Strife Raises US Doubts on Nuclear Arms.” Written by the newspaper’s White House correspondent, David Sanger, the article has all the markings of a CIA or Pentagon put-up job, concocted with the aim of manipulating public opinion and justifying a major escalation of the US political and military intervention in Pakistan.

The article is based entirely on the statements of unnamed “senior American officials.” It claims, notwithstanding Obama’s statement of last week affirming confidence in the Pakistani military’s control of the country’s nuclear arsenal, that there is a real and growing threat that Taliban or Al Qaeda operatives could snatch a Pakistani nuclear weapon or infiltrate its nuclear facilities.

To explain how the Islamicists could circumvent the elaborate controls the Pakistani military, with US assistance, has placed over its nuclear arsenal, the article advances a thriller-type scenario. Islamicists would first trigger a confrontation between India and Pakistan, then seize a weapon when Pakistan seeks to move it closer to the border with its eastern neighbor.

The Times, it should be recalled, played a major role in seeking to mobilize US public opinion behind the invasion of Iraq. Front and center in this campaign was the lie that the Iraqi government was in league with Al Qaeda and might give them access to nuclear weapons Saddam Hussein was supposedly developing.

That the Times’s article was part of a coordinated campaign was underscored by an interview given to the BBC by Obama’s national security adviser, Gen. James Jones, on Monday, the same day that the Times article appeared.

Jones singled out as the top US concern the safety of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal, and made a thinly veiled threat against the Pakistani government, saying, “If Pakistan doesn’t continue in the direction that it presently is, and we’re not successful there, then, obviously, the nuclear question comes into view.”

He went on to say that Pakistan’s nuclear weapons falling into the hands of the Taliban would be “the very, very worst case scenario” and added, choosing his words carefully but pointedly, “We’re going to do anything we can within the construct of our bilateral relations and multilateral relations to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

The Obama administration and the Pentagon are clearly weighing their options in respect to Pakistan and its role in the US thrust for geo-political advantage in oil-rich Central Asia. One thing is certain: What they are preparing will lead to greater violence and suffering for the people of the region and will further subvert the democratic will and aspirations of the Pakistani people.

In the US, Gaza is a different war

January 5, 2009
Al Jazeera, Jan 5, 2008
The mainstream US media has been careful to balance images of Gazan suffering with those of Israelis, leading to accusations it is not reflecting the unequal death toll [EPA]

The images of two women on the front page of an edition of The Washington Post last week illustrates how mainstream US media has been reporting Israel’s war on Gaza.On the left was a Palestinian mother who had lost five children. On the right was a nearly equally sized picture of an Israeli woman who was distressed by the fighting, according to the caption.

As the Palestinian woman cradled the dead body of one child, another infant son, his face blackened and disfigured with bruises, cried beside her.

The Israeli woman did not appear to be wounded in any way but also wept.

Arab frustration

To understand the frustration often felt in the Arab world over US media coverage, one only needs to imagine the same front page had the situation been reversed.

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If an Israeli woman had lost five daughters in a Palestinian attack, would The Washington Post run an equally sized photograph of a relatively unharmed Palestinian woman, who was merely distraught over Israeli missile fire?When the front page photographs of the two women were published on December 30, over 350 Palestinians had reportedly been killed compared to just four Israelis.

What if 350 Israelis had been killed and only four Palestinians – would the newspaper have run the stories side by side as if equal in news value?

Like many major news organisations in the US, The Washington Post has chosen to cover the conflict from a perspective that reflects the US government’s relationship with Israel. This means prioritising Israel’s version of events while underplaying the views of Palestinian groups.

For example, the newspaper’s lead article on Tuesday, which was published above the mothers’ photographs, quotes Israeli military and civilian sources nine times before quoting a single Palestinian. The first seven paragraphs explain Israel’s military strategy. The ninth paragraph describes the anxiety among Israelis, spending evenings in bomb shelters. Ordinary Palestinians, who generally have no access to bomb shelters, do not make an appearance until the 23rd paragraph.

To balance this top story, The Washington Post published another article on the bottom half of the front page about the Palestinian mother and her children. But would the paper have ever considered balancing a story about a massive attack on Israelis with an in-depth lead piece on the strategy of Palestinian militants?

Context stripped

Major US television channels also adopted the equal time approach, despite the reality that Palestinian casualties exceeded Israeli ones by a hundred fold. However, such comparisons were rare because the scripts read by American correspondents often excluded the overall Palestinian death count.

By stripping the context, American viewers may have easily assumed a level playing field, rather than a case of disproportionate force.

Take the opening lines of a report filed by NBC’s Martin Fletcher on December 30: “In Gaza two little girls were taking out the rubbish and killed by an Israeli rocket – while in Israel, a woman had been driving home and was killed by a Hamas rocket. No let up today on either side on the fourth day of this battle.”

Omitted from the report was the overall Palestinian death toll, dropped continuously in subsequent reports filed by NBC correspondents over the next several days.

When number of deaths did appear – sometimes as a graphic at the bottom of the screen – it was identified as the number of “people killed” rather than being attributed specifically to Palestinians.

No wonder the overwhelmingly asymmetrical bombardment of Gaza has been framed vaguely as “rising tensions in the Middle East” by news anchors.

With the lack of context, the power dynamic on the ground becomes unclear.

ABC news, for example, regularly introduced events in Gaza as “Mideast Violence”. And Like NBC, reporters excluded the Palestinian death toll.

On December 31, when Palestinian deaths stood at almost 400, ABC correspondent Simon McGergor-Wood began a video package by describing damage to an Israeli school by Hamas rockets.

The reporter’s script can be paraphrased as follows: Israel wanted a sustainable ceasefire; Israel needed to prevent Hamas from rearming; Hamas targets were hit; Israel was sending in aid and letting the injured out; Israel was doing “everything they can to alleviate the humanitarian crisis”. And with that McGregor-Wood signed off.

Palestinian perspective missing

There was no parallel telling of the Palestinian perspective, and no mention of any damages to Palestinian lives, although news agencies that day had reported five Palestinians dead.

For the ABC correspondent, it seemed the Palestinian deaths contained less news value than damage to Israeli buildings. His narration of events, meanwhile, amounted to no less than a parroting of the official Israeli line.

In fact, the Israeli government view typically went unchallenged on major US networks.

The US media has been accused of prioritising Israel’s version of events [EPA]

Interviews with Israeli spokesmen and ambassadors were not juxtaposed with the voices of Palestinian leaders. Prominent American news anchors frequently adopted the Israeli viewpoint. In talk show discussions, instead of debating events on the ground, the pundits often reinforced each other’s views.Such an episode occurred on a December 30 broadcast of the MSNBC show, Morning Joe, during which host Joe Scarborough repeatedly insisted that Israel should not be judged.

Israel was defending itself just as the US had done throughout history. “How many people did we kill in Germany?” Scarborough posed.

The blame rested on the Palestinians, he concluded, connecting the Gaza attacks to the Camp David negotiations of 2000. “They gave the Palestinians everything they could ask for, and they walked away from the table,” he said repeatedly.

Although this view was challenged once by Zbigniew Brzezinski, a former US official, who appeared briefly on the show, subsequent guests agreed incessantly with Scarborough’s characterisation of the Palestinians as negligent, if not criminal in nature.

According to guest Dan Bartlett, a former White House counsel, the Palestinian leadership had made it “very clear” that they were uninterested in peace talks.

Another guest, NBC anchor David Gregory, began by noting that Yasser Arafat, the late Palestinian president, “could not be trusted”, according to Bill Clinton, the former US president.

Gregory then added that Hamas had “undercut the peace process” and actually welcomed the attacks.

“The reality is that Hamas wanted this, they didn’t want the ceasefire,” he said.

Columnist Margaret Carlson also joined the show, agreeing in principal that Hamas should be “crushed” but voicing concern over the cost of such action.

Thus the debate was not whether Israel was justified, but rather what Israel should do next. The Palestinian human tragedy received little to no attention.

Victim’s perspective

Arab audiences saw a different picture altogether. Rather than mulling Israel’s dilemma, the Arab news networks captured the air assault in chilling detail from the perspective of its victims. The divide in coverage was staggering.

For US networks, the bombing of Gaza has largely been limited to two-minute video packages or five minute talk show segments. This has usually meant a few snippets of jumbled video: explosions from a distance and a momentary glance at victims; barely enough time to remember a face, let alone a personality. Victims were rarely interviewed.

The availability of time and space, American broadcast executives might argue, were mitigating factors.

On MSNBC for example, Gaza competed for air time last week with stories about the economy, such as a hike in liquor sales, or celebrity news, such as speculation over the publishing of photographs of Sarah Palin’s new grandchild.

Most US networks have reported exclusively from Israel [GALLO/GETTY]

On Arab TV, however, Gaza has been the only story.For hours on end, live images from the streets of Gaza are beamed into Arab households.

Unlike the correspondents from ABC and NBC, who have filed their reports exclusively from Israeli cities, Arab crews are inside Gaza, with many correspondents native Gazans themselves.

The images they capture are often broadcast unedited, and over the last week, a grizzly news gathering routine has been established.

The cycle begins with rooftop-mounted cameras, capturing the air raids live. After moments of quiet, thunderous bombing commences and plumes of smoke rise over the skyline. Then, anguish on the streets. Panicked civilians run for cover as ambulances careen through narrow alleys. Rescue workers hurriedly pick through the rubble, often pulling out mangled bodies. Fathers with tears of rage hold dead children up to the cameras, vowing revenge. The wounded are carried out in stretchers, gushing with blood.

Later, local journalists visit the hospitals and more gruesome images, more dead children are broadcast. Doctors wrap up the tiny bodies and carry them into overflowing morgues. The survivors speak to reporters. Their distraught voices are heard around the region; the outflow of misery and destruction is constant.

Palestinian voices

The coverage extends beyond Gaza. Unlike the US networks, which are often limited to one or two correspondents in Israel, major Arab television channels maintain correspondents and bureaus throughout the region. As angry protests take place on a near daily basis, the crews are there to capture the action live.

Even in Israel, Arab reporters are employed, and Israeli politicians are regularly interviewed. But so are members of Hamas and the other Palestinian factions.

The inclusion of Palestinian voices is not unique to Arab media. On a number of international broadcasters, including  BBC World and CNN International, Palestinian leaders and Gazans in particular are regularly heard. And the Palestinian death toll has been provided every day, in most broadcasts and by most correspondents on the ground. Reports are also filed from Arab capitals.

On some level, the relatively small American broadcasting output can be attributed to a general trend in downsizing foreign reporting. But had a bloodbath on this scale happened in Israel, would the networks not have sent in reinforcements?

For now, the Israeli viewpoint seems slated to continue to dominate Gaza coverage. The latest narrative comes from the White House, which has called for a “durable” ceasefire, preventing Hamas terrorists from launching more rockets.

Naturally the soundbites are parroted by US broadcasters throughout the day and then reinforced by pundits, fearing the dangerous Hamas.

Arab channels, however, see a different outcome. Many have begun referring to Hamas, once controversial, as simply “the Palestinian resistance”.

While American analysts map out Israel’s strategy, Arab broadcasters are drawing their own maps, plotting the expanding range of Hamas rockets, and predicting a strengthened hand for opposition to Israel, rather than a weakened one.

Habib Battah is a freelance journalist and media analyst based in Beirut and New York.

The views expressed by the author are not necessarily those of Al Jazeera.

Silence on War Crimes

November 5, 2008

Andy Worthington |’fff.org’  November 3, 2008

Last week, Bill Kovach, former Washington Bureau Chief of the New York Times and the founding chairman of the Committee of Concerned Journalists, blasted the U.S. media for its failure to ask tough questions of both presidential candidates regarding their opinions of the Bush administration’s unprecedented adherence to the controversial “unitary executive theory” of government.

The theory, which became prominent in the Reagan administration, but has peppered U.S. history, contends that, when he wishes, the president is entitled to act unilaterally, without interference from Congress or the judiciary. This is in direct contravention of the separation of powers on which the United States was founded, and critics have long contended that it is nothing less than an attempt by the executive to seize the dictatorial powers that the Constitution was designed to prevent.

Under the cover of the wartime powers granted in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, and with encouragement from lawyers including, in particular, Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff (and former legal counsel) David Addington, President Bush has pursued the theory relentlessly, issuing a record number of “signing statements” to laws passed by Congress, designed to prevent the nation’s politicians from interfering in the executive’s quest for unchecked power.

He has also approved a number of secret memos, which, in conjunction with various “signing statements,” have authorized what numerous critics of the administration regard as war crimes. These include detaining prisoners seized in the “war on terror” as “illegal enemy combatants” and holding them without charge or trial, dismissing the protections of the Geneva Conventions, redefining torture and approving its use by the U.S. military and the CIA, and authorizing “extraordinary rendition” and the use of secret prisons.

As if to prove what he was saying, Bill Kovach’s speech to a meeting of international journalists in Washington, D.C., went unreported in the U.S. media (and I located it only on the website of a Jamaican newspaper). And yet in many ways Kovach could have gone further, and could also have asked why the presidential candidates themselves have been silent about the current administration’s crimes.

The answer, sadly, is that the executive’s thirst for unfettered executive power is not a priority for voters, even when it spills out of foreign wars and offshore prisons and onto the U.S. mainland. Too many Americans, it seems, are unconcerned or unaware that the president can even hold U.S. citizens and legal residents as “enemy combatants” and can imprison them indefinitely on the U.S. mainland without charge or trial, as the cases of Jose Padilla and Ali al-Marri reveal in horrific detail.

Continued . . .

MEDIA-US: Massive Iraqi Death Toll Ignored by Tabloid Culture

November 5, 2008

By Marie-Helene Rousseau | Inter Press Service

NEW YORK, Nov 4 (IPS) – The year is 1994. Pictures of Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie Presley cover the pages of prominent U.S. newspapers and magazines. Yet hidden from national view is the attempted elimination of the Tutsi ethnic group in Rwanda.

When news of pop stars and their marriages and divorces takes precedence over stories about the Iraq War or privacy concerns in an age of increasing security measures, U.S. citizens are faced, as described by the director of Project Censored, “with a truth emergency”.

To address this emergency, Project Censored, a non-profit media project within the Sonoma State University Foundation, each year compiles 25 stories which they say have been neglected by the mainstream media. Since 1976, when Carl Jensen founded the research facility, these stories have comprised a yearbook of controversial stories that have gone largely unread and underreported.

The organisation, now headed by Peter Phillips, a professor of sociology at Sonoma State University, works with students and faculty of SSU to review and select which of the 700-1,000 annually submitted stories make the final cut. A panel of judges that includes noted writers Noam Chomsky and Susan Faludi then ranks the 25 stories in order of importance.

How do they determine what constitutes “censorship”? An explanation on ProjectCensored.org states, “We define Modern Censorship as the subtle yet constant and sophisticated manipulation of reality in our mass media outlets.”

The organisation outlines a set of criteria by which individuals can determine if a story is suitable for the “censored” list. The first of these criteria reads, “A Censored news story is one which contains information that the general United States population has a right and need to know, but to which it has had limited access.”

Indeed, none of the selected stories have appeared in the mainstream press, a category encompassing widely read publications such as The New York Times and the network news channels. Rather, the stories have been covered by a select number of independent media that are free from the constraints of corporate ownership.

The number one story this year gave a staggering answer to a question that has been glossed over in the mainstream press — just how many Iraqi lives have been lost because of the U.S. occupation? The answer is one million, and it exceeds the death toll of the 1994 Rwandan genocide, points out the Censored entry.

But that figure, calculated by British the polling group Opinion Research Business (ORB), was reported in just three independent media outlets — AlterNet, Inter Press Service (IPS), and After Downing Street.

Michael Schwartz, of the nonpartisan coalition After Downing Street, also refuted in Censored the idea that most violence occurs only between Iraqis, placing the percentage of U.S.-inflicted Iraqi deaths at about 80 percent.

Censored also points to what may be the most ominous consequence of media censorship — a public lack of awareness.

Schwartz, in Censored, refers to a February 2007 Associated Press poll in which U.S. citizens were asked how many Iraqis died because of the U.S. occupation. The most common answers placed casualties at below 10,000.

“This remarkable mass ignorance, like so many other elements of the Iraq War story, received no coverage in the mass media, not even by the Associated Press, which commissioned the study,” he writes.

Many of the stories included in this year’s compilation dealt with the aftermath of the Iraq War as well as privacy concerns in an age of increasing security measures.

At number three on the list, “InfraGard: The FBI Deputizes Business” reveals that members of the business community may be part of an anti-terrorism line of defence, but are also the first ones reaping the benefits of it. This programme is called InfraGard, and goes as far back as 1996, when it started in Cleveland with 350 members from the Fortune 500.

By transmitting information about private individuals to the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security, 23,000 members of private industry guarantee that they will receive warnings of a terrorist attack before private individuals — even before certain elected officials, reported The Progressive in an article by Matt Rothschild.

Rothschild’s article also asserts that an InfraGard member can even shoot to kill in the case of martial law “without fear of prosecution”.

Although in February, the FBI released a statement denouncing the piece, Rothschild is sticking by his story.

The Winter Soldier hearings, which took place in Silver Springs, Maryland in March of 2008 organised by Veterans against War, also found a place on the list at number nine. The testimonies of more than 300 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans revealed atrocities they not only saw, but also participated in, such as desecrating corpses and targeting civilians.

These revelatory hearings were covered in just three print media outlets — The Nation, One World, and Inter Press Service — as well as one radio station, Pacifica Radio.

If the U.S. government deems that a person, directly or indirectly, poses the risk of threatening U.S. operations in the Middle East, the U.S. treasury department can seize their property and freeze their assets — a story on this is number five on the list.

Two executive orders were established giving the treasury department this power, one in July of 2007 and more recently in August of 2007. The first executive order is limited to Iraq, and threatens seizure of property in the event someone committing, or posing a risk of committing violent acts in opposition to U.S. operations there.

The second order, targeted to operations in Lebanon, goes a little further, broadening the scope to actions, non-violent or otherwise, that undermine U.S. involvement in Lebanon. Under this order, dependents of the individuals (spouse, children) would also have their assets frozen, and would not be allowed to receive humanitarian aid, Censored states.

The two executive orders were covered in The Progressive, and Global Research.

While mass media closely followed such stories as Angelina Jolie’s pregnancy and Alec Baldwin’s marital problems, reports regarding the aftermath of the Iraq War and privacy concerns were hidden.

News of abuse and death in juvenile detention centres, unprecedented rates of arrests for marijuana possession in the U.S., corporate profiteering from No Child Left Behind, and the American Psychiatric Association’s sanctioning and aiding in torture methods lay buried underneath images of Paris Hilton’s new escapades. And those are just the top 25.

The war they all agree on

September 19, 2008

America’s two ruling parties came together in August to plan the escalation of the U.S. war on Afghanistan.

IN EARLY September, the Pentagon closed its investigation into allegations that U.S. bombs killed 92 Afghan civilians, including as many as 60 children, as they slept peacefully in the village of Nawabad on the night of August 21.

Columnist: Sharon Smith

Sharon Smith Sharon Smith is the author of Subterranean Fire: A History of Working-Class Radicalism in the United States, a historical account of the American working-class movement, and Women and Socialism, a collection of essays on women’s oppression and the struggle against it. She is also on the board of Haymarket Books.

Despite protests from the UN, human rights organizations and the villagers themselves, Pentagon officials insisted for weeks that only seven civilians had been killed, along with 35 Taliban fighters, during a legitimate military operation aimed at capturing Taliban commander Mullah Sadiq.

Indeed, they claimed that the attack, which included bombardment with a C130 Specter gunship, was a necessary response to heavy fire emanating from a meeting of Taliban leaders in the village.

In its defense, the Pentagon cited evidence from an embedded Fox News correspondent who had substantiated its claims. Unfortunately, that correspondent turned out to be former Marine Lt. Oliver North, who has been known to bend the truth in the past.

North’s military career was cut short after his role was revealed in the Iran-contra scandal in the 1980s. At the time, North admitted to having illegally channeled guns to Iran while funneling the profits to the CIA-backed contra mercenary force fighting to overthrow Nicaragua’s democratically elected Sandinista government–and then lying to Congress about it. In recent years, North has nevertheless cultivated a lucrative broadcasting career at Fox.

U.S. soldiers take up positions in the town of Gangikhel in southeastern Afghanistan  (Sgt. Sean Terry | U.S. Army)U.S. soldiers take up positions in the town of Gangikhel in southeastern Afghanistan (Sgt. Sean Terry | U.S. Army)

Although North assured Fox viewers, “Coalition forces…have not been able to find any evidence that non-combatants were killed in this engagement,” video footage taken on the scene by a local doctor showed scores of dead bodies and destroyed homes, documenting a civilian death toll at Nawabad that is the largest since the U.S. began bombing Afghanistan nearly seven years ago.

Thus, the U.S. military was forced to reopen its own investigation on September 8, only days after it had exonerated itself. A red-faced official told reporters that “emerging evidence” had convinced the Pentagon to investigate the matter further.

On that same day, Human Rights Watch issued a report that U.S. and NATO forces dropped 362 tons of bombs over Afghanistan during the first seven months of this year; bombings during June and July alone equaled the total during all of 2006.

The rising civilian death toll in Afghanistan rattled even the normally placid New York Times, which argued, “America is fast losing the battle for hearts and minds, and unless the Pentagon comes up with a better strategy, the United States and its allies may well lose the war.”

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

AS NEWS of the Nawabad massacre unfolded, another atrocity was also gaining media attention, further exposing the gangster state installed and maintained by U.S. forces to run Afghanistan since 2001.

President Hamid Karzai, the U.S.’s handpicked puppet, reportedly pardoned two men convicted of brutally raping a woman in the northern province of Samangan in September 2005.

At the time, Mawlawi Islam, the commander of a local militia, was running for a seat in Afghanistan’s first parliamentary elections. “The commander and three of his fighters came and took my wife out of our home and took her to their house about 200 meters away and, in front of these witnesses, raped her,” the woman’s husband told the Independent.

The couple has a doctor’s report that the rapists cut her private parts with a bayonet during the rape, and then forced her to stagger home without clothes from the waist down.

Mawlawi won a seat in parliament in September 2005, as the U.S. media celebrated the elections as proof that democracy was flourishing in Afghanistan thanks to U.S. occupation. But Mawlawi was assassinated, mafia-style in January of this year.

His past had caught up with him. Mawlawi had first fought as a mujahideen commander in the 1980s, but switched sides to become a Taliban governor in the 1990s. He switched sides yet again when the U.S. invaded Afghanistan in 2001 and re-joined the former mujahideen, which had morphed into the Northern Alliance–the group of warlords installed by the U.S. to run Afghanistan as a collection of private gangster fiefdoms.

Karzai issued a press statement expressing his “deep regret” in response to Mawlawi’s death in January. Bypassing the rape charge, he expressed nothing but praise: “Mawlawi Islam Muhammadi was a prominent jihadi figure who has made great sacrifices during the years of jihad against the Soviet invasion.”

Mawlawi’s three subordinates were finally convicted for the rape this year, and one died in prison. But although they were sentenced to 11 years, Karzai reportedly issued a pardon for the other two in May, claiming the men “had been forced to confess their crimes.”

The drug-running warlords who have controlled Afghanistan since 2001 have no interest in either democracy or women’s rights. Indeed, it is not uncommon for poor poppy farmers who cannot repay loans to local warlords to offer up their daughters for marriage instead.

Gang rapes and violence against women are on the rise, according to human rights organizations. As a member of parliament, Mir Ahmad Joyenda, told the Independent, “The commanders, the war criminals, still have armed groups. They’re in the government. Karzai, the Americans, the British sit down with them. They have impunity. They’ve become very courageous and can do whatever crimes they like.” In this situation, Afghan warlords again produce 90 percent of the world’s opium, without legal repercussion.

Women’s prisons, in contrast, are teeming once again. As Sonali Kolhatkar, the author of Bleeding Afghanistan: Washington, Warlords and the Propaganda of Silence, argued on Democracy Now! “Women are being imprisoned in greater numbers than ever before, for the crime of escaping from home or having, quote-unquote, ‘sexual relations’–‘illegal sexual relations.’ Most of these women are simply victims of rape.”

Continued . . .

Russia Georgia War – Washington Risks Nuclear War by Miscalculation

August 12, 2008

By F William Engdahl | The Market Oracle, August 11, 2008

The dramatic military attack by the military of the Republic of Georgia on South Ossetia in the last days has brought the world one major step closer to the ultimate horror of the Cold War era—a thermonuclear war between Russia and the United States—by miscalculation. What is playing out in the Caucasus is being reported in US media in an alarmingly misleading light, making Moscow appear the lone aggressor. The question is whether George W. Bush and Dick Cheney are encouraging the unstable Georgian President, Mikhail Saakashvili in order to force the next US President to back the NATO military agenda of the Bush Doctrine. This time Washington may have badly misjudged the possibilities, as it did in Iraq , but this time with possible nuclear consequences.

The underlying issue, as I stressed in my July 11 piece in this space, Georgien, Washington, Moskau: Atomarer geopolitischer Machtpoker , is the fact that since the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact in 1991 one after another former member as well as former states of the USSR have been coaxed and in many cases bribed with false promises by Washington into joining the counter organization, NATO.

Rather than initiate discussions after the 1991 dissolution of the Warsaw Pact about a systematic dissolution of NATO, Washington has systematically converted NATO into what can only be called the military vehicle of an American global imperial rule, linked by a network of military bases from Kosovo to Poland to Turkey to Iraq and Afghanistan . In 1999, former Warsaw Pact members Hungary , Poland and the Czech Republic joined NATO. Bulgaria , Estonia , Latvia , Lithuania , Romania , and Slovakia followed suit in March 2004. Now Washington is putting immense pressure on the EU members of NATO, especially Germany and France , that they vote in December to admit Georgia and Ukraine .

The roots of the conflict

The specific conflict between Georgia and South Ossetia and Abkhazia has its roots in the following. First, the Southern Ossetes , who until 1990 formed an autonomous region of the Georgian Soviet republic, seek to unite in one state with their co-ethnics in North Ossetia , an autonomous republic of the Russian Soviet republic and now the Russian Federation . There is an historically grounded Ossete fear of violent Georgian nationalism and the experience of Georgian hatred of ethnic minorities under then Georgian leader Zviad Gamsakhurdia, which the Ossetes see again under Georgian President, Mikhel Saakashvili. Saakashvili was brought to power with US financing and US covert regime change activities in December 2003 in what was called the Rose Revolution. Now the thorns of that rose are causing blood to spill.

Abkhazia and South Ossetia—the first a traditional Black Sea resort area, the second an impoverished, sparsely populated region that borders Russia to the north—each has its own language, culture, history. When the Soviet Union collapsed, both regions sought to separate themselves from Georgia in bloody conflicts – South Ossetia in 1990-1, Abkhazia in 1992-4.

In December 1990 Georgia under Gamsakhurdia sent troops into South Ossetia after the region declared its own sovereignty. This Georgian move was defeated by Soviet Interior Ministry troops. Then Georgia declared abolition of the South Ossete autonomous region and its incorporation into Georgia proper. Both wars ended with cease-fires that were negotiated by Russia and policed by peacekeeping forces under the aegis of the recently established Commonwealth of Independent States. The situation hardened into “frozen conflicts,” like that over Cyprus . By late 2005, Georgia signed an agreement that it would not use force, and the Abkhaz would allow the gradual return of 200,000-plus ethnic Georgians who had fled the violence. But the agreement collapsed in early 2006, when Saakashvili sent troops to retake the Kodori Valley in Abkhazia. Since then Saakashvili has been escalating preparations for military action.

Critical is Russia ‘s support for the Southern Ossetes . Russia is unwilling to see Georgia join NATO. In addition, the Ossetes are the oldest Russian allies in the Caucasus who have provided troops to the Russian army in many wars. Russia does not wish to abandon them and the Abkhaz, and fuel yet more ethnic unrest among their compatriots in the Russian North Caucasus . In a November 2006 referendum, 99 percent of South Ossetians voted for independence from Georgia , at a time when most of them had long held Russian passports. This enabled Russian President Medvedev to justify his military’s counter-attack of Georgia on Friday as an effort to “protect the lives and dignity of Russian citizens, wherever they may be.”

For Russia , Ossetia has been an important strategic base near the Turkish and Iranian frontiers since the days of the czars. Georgia is also an important transit country for oil being pumped from the Caspian Sea to the Turkish port of Ceyhan and a potential base for Washington efforts to encircle Tehran .

As far as the Georgians are concerned, South Ossetia and Abkhazia are simply part of their national territory, to be recovered at all costs. Promises by NATO leaders to bring Georgia into the alliance, and ostentatious declarations of support from Washington , have emboldened Saakashvili to launch his military offensive against the two provinces, South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Saakashvili and likely, Dick Cheney’s office in Washington appear to have miscalculated very badly. Russia has made it clear that it has no intention of ceding its support for South Ossetia or Abkhazia.

Continued . . .

A QUESTION OF NOMENCLATURE

August 2, 2008

Malcolm Lagauche, August 2 – 4, 2008

baghdadbob23.jpg
Nobody laughs at Baghdad Bob any more

Saturday-Monday, August 2-4, 2008

When I began to work at Radio Netherlands in its English section in 1981 as a broadcaster/interviewer/news writer, I received training from a master, Hans Kramer. He quickly turned my American delivery into a more international style.

His tips on interviewing have lasted with me for almost three decades: never ask a question that can be answered by “yes,” or “no:” never make a statement, only ask questions: except for your first and last questions, never have any written down: and others.
When he discussed news writing, he stressed the virtues of brevity and accuracy. Then he stated, “And never use the word ‘terrorist.’ One man’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter.”

At the time, I rarely wrote news that would border on this issue, but the statement remained with me. Today, however, the word “terrorist” is bandied about with frequency: mostly in the wrong context.

In Iraq, a resistance is in full swing. The resistance is being conducted against an occupying force, therefore, every time the word “terrorist” is used by U.S. administration officials, or by Iraqi stooges, the word is in error.

Some news agencies have softened the word by calling the resistance an “insurgency.” Again, this is false. An insurgency is an uprising against a legal entity. The current Iraqi government is illegal and those in the real government have been murdered or are in prison. Therefore, the resistance fighters in Iraq are definitely not part of an insurgency.

Let’s look at occupied France of World War II. The resistance was trying to make things difficult for the German occupiers. After the war, they were considered heroes by the U.S. who, to this day, have not failed to consistently remind France that it was American troops who helped liberate the country as well.

If we use the same logic, how can the U.S. be considered liberators of Iraq? In reality, they are the same occupiers as were the Germans of France in World War II. The only difference is that Germany did not destroy as much of France as the U.S. has in Iraq.

Therefore, the Iraqi resistance fighters are the heroes. They are trying to oust an occupying force.

The U.S. media have things backwards because they use the same terminology as the administration. They mention the “bad guys” when discussing the resistance and most U.S. citizens have fallen in line. A simple method of portraying the truth is by merely reversing the words of “bad guys” to “good guys.” This 180-degree change would then be indicative of a more truthful look at current Iraq.

Iraq has been resisting since 1991, but it was not until U.S. troops were on its soil that the resistance took on its current form. The first Gulf War killed about 250,000 Iraqis, but the killing did not stop with the 1991 cease-fire. From March 1991 to March 2003, about two million Iraqis were given a premature grave because of the illegal embargo placed on it.

Most people do not remember the bogus “no-fly zones” set up by the U.S. During the embargo years, about 850 Iraqis were killed by the antics of U.S. pilots flying over Iraq, with a few thousand more injured.

During the those years, a few proclamations were floated to the Iraqi government. One, in particular, said that if Saddam Hussein signed the document, the embargo would be lifted and he would be re-packaged by the U.S. as a man of peace, similar to the transition of Col. Ghadaffi from a terrorist to a “good Arab.”

The document called for Iraq to hand over its oil production to the U.S. and allow a few huge U.S. military bases to be constructed in the country. Saddam and associates refused to sign. In mentioning this approach to him, as well as other occurrences in Iraq at the time, Saddam Hussein stated, “Iraq has been put in a situation in which it has to choose between sacrifice and slavery.”

Today’s Iraq is in the same quandary. Some collaborators have chosen slavery. They do not realize that by cooperating with the U.S. occupier, the country’s fate has been sealed for decades.

The resistance has taken the sacrifice route. The members have sacrificed their own careers and family ties to ensure that Iraq does not fall into total slavery.

When Saddam Hussein stated that “the mother of all battles has begun” on January 17, 1991, he was ridiculed. He knew his military would not be able to fare well against the U.S., but it was a stance that someone had to take in fighting imperialism. He also knew that this was only the beginning of a long struggle that could last for years or decades.

From January 17, 1991, to April 9, 2003, Iraq resisted, but not in a way that was greatly visible. It lost many people with little loss of life for the opposition.

On April 8, 2003, the Iraqi Information Minister, Mohammed Sahaff was giving his daily report to the world. He was known as Baghdad Bob and held a worldwide audience because of his colorful statements in English and Arabic.

Sahaff was telling the audience how the U.S. troops were going to be bogged down in Iraq. One reporter shouted, “Look, the Americans are already in Baghdad.” Sahaff turned around to see a U.S. tank about 200 meters in the distance. He took the microphone and said:

Do not be hasty because your disappointments will be huge … You will reap nothing from this aggressive war, which you launched on Iraq, except for disgrace and defeat … We will embroil them, confuse them, and keep them in the quagmire … They cannot just enter a country of 26 million people and lay besiege to them. They are the ones who will find themselves under siege.

He walked away, never again to be seen in public.

For the next few months, websites sprung up laughing at Sahaff and his last statement in particular. T-shirts and coffee mugs were made mocking his statement.

Sahaff went to the U.S. authorities and they laughed at him, not taking him prisoner. This, in essence, was a statement meaning, “You’re not even worth capturing.”

A few months later, while being interviewed in the U.A.E., where he relocated, a reporter asked Sahaff about his last statement. At the time, the resistance was in its formative stages, but not as active as today. Sahaff refused to take back the statement and said, “Let history speak about this matter.”

Today, the resistance is solid and every day we read or hear about another plan to placate the Iraqis. Plans change, but the effectiveness of the resistance does not.

Today, when one looks back at Sahaff’s statement, nobody seems to be laughing anymore.

Military censorship of the war in Iraq

July 31, 2008

By Naomi Spencer | WSWS, 31 July 2008

Five years of bloody US occupation have seen numerous crimes against humanity unfold in Iraq. Millions of Iraqi civilians have been killed and wounded, with millions more made into refugees. Ancient, once-vibrant cities have been destroyed by air raids and chemical weapons. Thousands of Iraqis have imprisoned by the US military in barbaric conditions, and in many cases tortured. In carrying out the occupation, more than 4,400 military personnel—most of them American—have died and tens of thousands have been wounded.

Little reflection of these realities is to be found, however, in the US media, particularly in visual form. Censorship by the military—and self-censorship by media outlets—is part of an effort by the ruling elite to sanitize the war and keep the American public in the dark about its real nature.

As highlighted in a July 26 piece in the New York Times, titled “4,000 U.S. Deaths, and a Handful of Images,” very few photographs of the occupation have trickled out from the military-embedded journalists and been released by the American media. The military and Bush administration have imposed rules barring photos of flag-draped caskets, as well as documentation of battlefield casualties in which faces, ranks, or other identifiers are visible.

The Times notes, “Even memorial services for killed soldiers, once routinely open, are increasingly off limits. Detainees were widely photographed in the early years of the war, but the Department of Defense, citing prisoners’ rights, has recently stopped that practice as well.” Journalists have also been forbidden from releasing images showing what the military deems to be sensitive information—anything from an image of American weaponry to the aftermath of an insurgent strike.

Journalists interviewed by the Times said that even tighter rules imposed last year, requiring written permission from wounded soldiers before their images could be used, were nearly impossible to satisfy in the case of seriously wounded and dying soldiers.

“While embed restrictions do permit photographs of dead soldiers to be published once family members have been notified,” the Times commented, “in practice, the military has exacted retribution on the rare occasions that such images have appeared.”

Clearly, none of these restrictions have anything to do with “prisoners’ rights” or respect for the families of fallen soldiers. To the contrary, the military’s intent is to obscure from the American people the hellish reality in which prisoners and US soldiers alike have found themselves. Indeed, while employing typical military jargon and doublespeak, Defense Department officials make no secret of the subject: free and easy access to photographs, print journalism, and first-hand accounts of the war are a “vulnerability” for US imperialism because it fuels antiwar sentiment in the population and within the military.

Continued . . .


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